The author wants people to know that with relatively new medications, dementia may be slowed down.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR HEALTH WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Along with new medications that can slow the effects of dementia, there's a humorous book that provides a recipe for staying sane while helping an elderly loved one through those sometimes confusing and agonizing years.
Jacqueline Marcell, author of the recipe book "Elder Rage, or Take My Father ... Please!" will be the main speaker at a series of events Thursday and Saturday on the Youngstown State University campus.
YSU's Department of Physical Therapy will present Marcell Thursday in a "meet the author" session called, "How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents," from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Ohio Room at Kilcawley Center. On Friday, Marcell will sign books at Barnes & amp; Noble Booksellers, 381 Boardman-Poland Road, Boardman, at 5:30 p.m.
Conference: Saturday, the Mahoning Valley Epilepsy Fund offers the 3rd annual Neurological Conference, which will focus on "Alzheimer's and Epilepsy in the Elderly," from 7:15 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. in McKay Auditorium of the Beeghly College of Education at YSU.
Marcell, a nationally-known presenter and author, will be the featured speaker for the conference. At 9 a.m., she will speak on brain chemistry, signs of dementia and finding the right doctor. At 10:30 a.m. her topic will be behavior modification; and her final discussion at 11:30 a.m. will focus on caring for the care-giver, checking on local community support, and preparation for growing older.
Marcell's presentations will be preceded at 8 a.m. by a discussion of epilepsy in the elderly by Dr. Anne C. Van Cott, a neurologist with the Veterans Affairs' Pittsburgh Health Care System.
Sponsors: The conference, sponsored by Help Hotline Crisis Center, the YSU Department of Physical Therapy, and YSU's Bitonte College of Health and Human Services, is designed to help health-care professionals and the general public better understand Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy in the elderly, said Janet Mau, director of the Mahoning Valley Epilepsy Fund. Dementia is estimated to affect one in 10 by the age of 65 and one in two by the age of 85, she said.
Alzheimer's, a form of dementia, is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system characterized by premature senile mental deterioration. Epilepsy is any of several disorders marked by disturbed electrical rhythms of the central nervous system, typically manifested by convulsive attacks, usually with clouding of consciousness, Mau said.
In her book, Marcell, a former television executive in southern California, tells how she learned to deal with the medical care system, find at-home support for her elderly parents and understand what was happening to her father, who was suffering from dementia.
Marcell says there is no cure and no stopping the progression of dementia, of which Alzheimer's represents about 50 percent.
New medications: She wants people to know, however, that with relatively new medications, dementia may be slowed down -- thereby keeping a loved one in Stage I, which is intermittent and mild, for a longer period of time. She said there are three stages of dementia: Stage I, which lasts two to four years; Stage 2, two to 10 years and requires full-time care; and Stage 3, which lasts one to three years.
The signs of dementia are simple to recognize, she said.
"When your loved one does something that strikes you as illogical or irrational, it is. You don't need to be a Ph.D to know something is wrong. You need a medical doctor who can diagnose and treat it properly," she said.
Dealing with it: There are several keys to dealing successfully with dementia. They include:
U Early diagnosis and treatment, which means finding a doctor who is a geriatric dementia specialist.
U Behavior modification, which Marcell achieved with her father using rewards and consequences.
U Getting both parents out of bed ("waiting to die") and into adult day care, which she said completely turned their lives around at ages 81 and 87.
The first thing a care-giver must do, before getting a medical diagnosis, Marcell said, is to consult an elder law attorney and obtain durable power of attorney so they can step in and make medical and financial decisions.
"Once you get that in place, get a proper evaluation and diagnosis," she said.
The whole point, once they get the diagnosis, is that care-givers can keep their loved ones in Stage I a few extra years, and get control of finances, pay bills and hire help.
"This is heart-wrenching stuff. Without taking the proper steps, it will cost the loved one his life's savings," Marcell said.
"It is imperative to get past the denial and reach out for help. When it hits you and you can't leave them alone, your whole life changes," she said.
"I really did my all. I just happened to get laid off when I went through it. I said, 'I've got to write a book.' With the knowledge I have now, I know where to turn, who to call and how not to waste time," Marcell said.