Douglas Lee, 80, who has been living with his son for the past six years, was taken Monday afternoon by Tim Lee to an appointment with a hearing doctor.
Before fulfilling his caregiver duty, Tim Lee said attending the summit made him realize he is not alone and the frustrations he faces are shared by many Cobb families.
Organizers who started planning the Aging by Design series and summit in October said the idea for the program stemmed from the chairman.
Lee said his inspiration for the summit was 10 years of hard work to find a strategic plan for Cobb’s senior issues.
Even though the Board of Commissioners allocated up to $50,000 for the county’s first Aging by Design Summit, organizers were able to educate a sold-out crowd using sponsorship donations.
Cobb County Senior Services and other area agencies came together this spring with the help of residents to brainstorm about issues facing Cobb’s growing senior population.
From the beginning of March to the end of April, organizers presented workshops on topics ranging from housing options for people with dementia to the possible financial and emotional exploitation of people with the illness.
Slots for a free all-day event at the Galleria Monday were filled well in advance by 300 people, with another 50 hopefuls on the waiting list.
The day began at 9 a.m. with a welcome address by Lee, followed by 45 minute presentations, as well as a question and answer session with health experts.
Attendees push for more information
Beyond his duties as the county’s chairman at Monday’s event, Lee said he was listening along with other participants for tips.
The chance to learn tools as a caregiver for a dementia patient came from a presentation by Carol Howell, a dementia specialist and life coach through her company Senior Life Journeys.
Her first tip for talking to a patient with dementia was not to argue, because the patient is going to win after a lot of added distress, anger and acting out.
“We need to approach them in their space and time,” Howell said, explaining the importance of meeting patients at eye level and never approaching from behind. “Be respectful of the response they do or don’t give back.”
Howell said having dementia is more than just the inability to think clearly, but is seen in family members who have problems bathing, dressing and eating.
“They think they’ve eaten but they haven’t,” she said.
Once it is clear a loved one suffers from dementia, there are still tests that should be used to pinpoint a diagnosis for the best treatment, Howell said.
“Old age and dementia does not have to go together,” she said about reasons for the condition, ranging from a stroke to Alzheimer’s.
Two east Cobb residents who once ran a lunch and dessert cafe off Johnson Ferry Road attended Monday’s summit.
Les Cane, 67, is a retired pathologist and caregiver for his wife, Harriet Cane, 68, who he says in 2009 began to have “cognitive brain issues” not tied to Alzheimer’s.
Harriet Cane is a former medical technologist who can no longer drive. Once an avid reader, she has given up the hobby.
Les Cane said he appreciated the chance to give feedback at the end of the summit on workshops that should be held in the future, especially about the financial and legal aspects of aging.
He also hopes to learn more about how to refurbish a home “for those who want to age in place,” which means sharing a residence with other retired couples or renters that is accessible to the handicapped.
Lee said the continuing program will expand to many other topics that warrant conversations. Attendees told him Monday’s session was a “great stepping off point.”
Even before Monday’s event, Director of Cobb County Senior Services Jessica Gill said the mini sessions helped organizers know what direction to go next, such as affordable housing options, techniques to manage chronic disease, and how to remain in the work place or actively volunteer.
“We really need to tailor it more to the 55 to 70 year old population,” Gill said.
FACTS AND FIGURES
• Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States
• Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women
• More than 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers are women
• In 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion