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Free workshops offered to help families dealing with Alzheimer's and other dementias

By Kim Walter -- kwalter@nvdaily.com

The local Home Instead Senior Care office will offer free educational workshops for families and loved ones dealing with and caring for Azheimer's or other dementia sufferers in the valley.

The workshops will be held at the office on 174 Garber Lane in Winchester from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 28, and from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 31. The workshops will focus on managing behaviors of those with dementia, as well as encouraging engagement and caring for the caregivers themselves while also caring for their loved one.

Peggy Uchno, a local expert on dementia and client care coordinator at Home Instead Senior Care, will teach the workshops, which she said are already half full. However, if the classes fill up and more people are interested, the free workshops will continue with the need for them.

"You don't even have to be involved with Home Instead to participate," Uchno said. "We just want to help those who have just started caring for someone, or those who are right in the middle of it."

The workshops will consist of four classes: Alzheimer's Disease of Other Dementias Overview, Capturing Life's Journey, Techniques to Manage Behaviors and Activities to Encourage Engagement. Uchno said that coming up with a "life journal" can be one of the most important steps in caring for a loved one with some kind of dementia.

"We ask caregivers to find out their loved one's likes and dislikes, their proudest moments, and what shaped their personality," she said. "That's the information that's going to help them manage the person's symptoms."

Uchno said that those with Alzheimer's have a solid longterm memory, so reminding them who they were before they developed the disease is key.

"It helps to turn around a bad day, and it makes it easier for the caregivers, too," she said.

About 40 percent of people who reach the age of 85 could develop some form of dementia, Uchno said, so it's important to become as educated as possible. She added that about 70 percent of sufferers are being cared for at home.

"The best place for them is a familiar setting," she said.

Other classes will focus on physical, social and mental activities that will help keep patients engaged throughout the day, as well as how to deal with challenging behaviors.

"Caregivers are stressed," she said. "It's an awful lot to deal with if you don't have all the information."

Uchno is particularly passionate about the training because her 90-year-old mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a few years ago.

"We didn't understand it at first. We were making the wrong decisions and reacting the wrong way," she said. "Knowledge is power ... there is a better way."

Uchno said she hopes that as many people who need it will sign up for the free training, which is available to families in Winchester and Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren counties. While there is also online training available, she said she feels the workshops are even more beneficial because they give families in similar situations a chance to share their experiences and relate to one another.

"I can't change her outcome," Uchno said of her mother. "But if I can help other people, I am more than happy to do that."

For more information or to register for the workshops, call 540-722-8750 or visit www.homeinstead.com.

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