MEDFORD, Ore. — Right now, over 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease. There is no treatment to cure, delay or stop the progression of the disease.
Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Not only does Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia impact those diagnosed with the disease, it also greatly impacts their caregivers, which are often times immediate family.
Keith Drahn became the primary caregiver for his wife Mary when she was first diagnosed about nine years ago. He says that as the disease progressed, he truly began to feel the impact.
"A warm, loving woman who was a child magnet — preschoolers were always attracted to her," Drahn said, describing Mary before her diagnosis. "She reached a point where her anger would come out a couple of times a day, getting up at 2:30 in the morning. Someone said 'you really need to go to a support group.'"
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 60 percent of caregivers pass away before the people they care for. For family members caring for their loved ones, the stress from caregiving and grief can impact overall health; not to mention the emotional toll it can take to walk through memory loss with someone you love.
"We did our best to keep her at home . . . even with family there, it just reached a point where I could see that my health was diminishing and I need to do something different," said Drahn.
As a response to fill the need for support, the Medford Senior Center Support Group meets regularly. The group is for caregivers and those who have been diagnosed. The room is divided so that each group can speak freely and receive support.
"The group pointed me to some resources for respite care for a time before we finally placed her," said Drahn. "So information, encouragement, wisdom — all of those things were very helpful and I'd be lost without them."
You can join this support group by contacting Jerry Hauck at 541-261-3578 or Marya Kain at 541-601-5341.