Living well with Alzheimer’s: staying engaged and connected

Living well with Alzheimer’s: staying engaged and connected


Chris Hannafan of Walnut Creek has been dwelling with Alzheimer’s illness and posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) for 2 years. Chris and Debbie Katz, his associate of over 20 years, have discovered assist and a brand new group of buddies by way of the Alzheimer’s Affiliation.

Discovering assist early
Debbie first reached out to the Alzheimer’s Affiliation when Chris was going by way of the method to get a analysis. As soon as Chris’ analysis of younger-onset Alzheimer’s was confirmed, Debbie referred to as the Alzheimer’s Affiliation once more to find out about what assets have been accessible. She and Chris shortly joined Alzheimer’s Affiliation assist teams in Lafayette.

Early stage assist teams
The Alzheimer’s Affiliation provides weekly assist teams for these dwelling with Alzheimer’s and associated cognitive impairments who’re within the early stage of the illness. A concurrent group is obtainable for his or her care companions.

Group members can discuss their experiences with others who can perceive what they’re feeling. “I don’t have an issue speaking about what’s occurring with me,” shared Chris. “My sense is that as a result of I try this, it helps different folks really feel snug speaking.”

Debbie, who’s a wedding and household therapist, has additionally benefited vastly from collaborating within the care associate group. “As a therapist, I all the time say that teams are essential. However really being in my very own group and experiencing it myself was totally different,” Debbie mentioned. “It helps to have a spot the place you possibly can say the way you’re feeling.” Being a part of the group helped Debbie understand how a lot she had been holding issues in.

Let’s have dinner
In these teams, Chris and Debbie additionally discovered a brand new set of buddies. Two years in the past, one of many former group members invited everybody to get collectively for a vacation dinner. They met at an area restaurant and had a good time.

Chris and Debbie

Later, Chris and Debbie thought it could be good to have a get collectively for the group at Chris’ home. They invited present and former group members to attend.

The early stage assist group schedule features a two-week break after every eight-week session. The following time the group was about to have a break, another person hosted a potluck.

This casual custom of assembly throughout breaks has continued. Present and former members of the assist teams attend.

Deepening their bonds with one another
Roughly 20-25 folks often attend. “The dinner I take into consideration most was in the summertime; we have been sitting exterior,” Chris shared. “There’s something magical about it if you’re actually connecting.”

Because the illness progresses and people’ lives change, folks transition out of the early stage assist group. The dinners give group members the possibility to fulfill in a relaxed setting, even after they cease attending the assist teams.

“The dinner is a very wonderful means for us to remain related with the individuals who have left,” Debbie mentioned. “A pair who moved to Palm Springs are arising for this month’s dinner.”

Each Debbie and Chris additionally recognize the chance to spend extra time with the people who attend one another’s group. “On the dinners, I get to fulfill the companions of the folks in my group,” mentioned Chris. “It permits us to attach with them too.”

Typically these with Alzheimer’s and their care companions are reluctant to socialize. They could turn into extra remoted. The dinners are notably useful for these people.

The dinners have expanded the members’ social circles. Typically individuals who have left the group meet present group attendees and create new friendships.

Speaking with friends who can’t attend a assist group
Previous to his analysis, Chris was an energetic hospice volunteer. Since his analysis, Chris has discovered different methods to present again to the group.

When Chris first began attending the assist group, he requested an Alzheimer’s Affiliation workers member what extra he might do. She invited Chris to volunteer for the peer-to-peer program.

Chris, on the brink of make peer-to-peer calls

Each different week, Chris calls people dwelling with dementia who’re unable to attend a assist group, resulting from distance or different circumstances. They discuss their experiences. “It’s magic,” Chris says of being within the peer-to-peer program.

Chris is grateful that he’s in a position to be helpful. He finds that he additionally advantages personally from serving to others.

“Chris and all of the peer to look outreach volunteers are doing such essential work,” mentioned Vanessa Souza, Early Stage Program Coordinator. “They’re able to attain folks dwelling with Alzheimer’s who in any other case wouldn’t have a approach to join with somebody who actually understands what they’re going by way of. The peer to look calls is usually a first level of contact for folks dwelling with Alzheimer’s who aren’t in a position to come to our places of work in individual, in addition to an ongoing supply of assist.”

Different methods to assist
Chris is on a mission to assist others who’re dwelling with Alzheimer’s or associated issues. Discovering alternatives to be round different folks helps him as nicely. “There are such a lot of folks on the market who don’t have somebody to speak to,” famous Chris.

Chris has shared his story with the media and with group teams. He not too long ago joined the Board of Administrators for the Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Affiliation.

“I name it, welcome to the brand new world,” mentioned Chris. “It signifies that I can create something I need.”

Study extra about alternatives for assist and engagement for these dwelling with Alzheimer’s and associated issues on-line or by calling 800.272.3900.

Watch two of Chris’ displays and media appearances.

PBS Information Hour interview

Presentation for Hospice volunteers

Study Extra:

  • Getting a analysis
  • Dwelling with Alzheimer’s
  • Help companies for these dwelling with Alzheimer’s and care companions

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