Experts address Alzheimer’s in Nevada County | TheUnion.com

Experts address Alzheimer’s in Nevada County

A panel of experts on dementia and Alzheimer's gave an informative perspective to about 100 people at the Nevada Theater in Nevada City on Tuesday about the disease that is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Renee Chevreaux, Alzheimer's Outreach Program Coordinator; David Troxel, internationally renowned author and expert in Alzheimer's; Dr. Helen Crawford, Geriatric Psychiatrist; and Sheryl Bartolucci, a family caregiver, all spoke of their experience's with the disease and answered questions from members of the audience.

How to preserve the dignity of those suffering from dementia, in home care, empathy, and even legal advice were some of the many topics brought up during the forum.

"Empathy is very powerful," Troxel explained, adding that using verbiage like "victim," "suffering," or "facility" around those experiencing the disease can only make things harder.

Troxel explained visiting his mother in a nursing home where she was referred to as living in a "pod."

"Please do not put me in a pod when I get older," Troxel said. "I want to be in a neighborhood or community."

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Troxel explained the advantages of establishing a therapeutic environment for those with Alzheimer's or dementia.

"There's something called a therapeutic environment," Troxel said. "It is an environment that is healing. Music and song lyrics live in a different part of the brain, so enjoy music, it seems to survive the onslaught of dementia better. I met a caregiver that puts on Louis Armstrong every morning and they dance their way to the shower."

Others on the panel shared similar sentiments, including Sheryl Bartolucci, who shared her experience as a caregiver to her husband, Lou Bartolucci, who died from Alzheimer's last month.

"The key things were to pay attention to Lou's special interests, including classical music," Bartolucci said. "We moved him and created an environment that had his books, classical music, good caregivers, could look out the window and see trees and deer. When Lou was sick they had to bring him to the hospital. They tied him to the bed, he still got out. He didn't want to go back to the hospital. We set him up at hospice. They did a wonderful job, he passed away with his classical music going, a baton in his hand, his caregivers around him. He was at peace."

Dr. Crawford addressed issues referencing long-distance caregivers.

"Traditionally patients don't want strangers in their home and every day that person is a stranger," Crawford said. "What I recommend to families is if you can hire someone, have them come in the home with you, so really they're helping the person with dementia. That person will get used to someone else in the home. But it is very individual, it could be uncomfortable. It's something you have to investigate to see what will work."

"As terrible as this disease is, we are very fortunate to be living in our community with a lot of resources for older adults," Chevreaux said. "All the senior services up here are amazing. If you are a caregiver, reach out. You may not need them today, but to have the connections you may need in the future."

To contact Staff Writer Elias Funez efunez@theunion.com, or call 530-477-4230.