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Jo Ann Koffman, 76, of Indian Land recently lost her husband of 55 years to Alzheimer’s disease.
Boyd Koffman, 82, died May 21 after a long, painful year for the Koffman family.
Koffman said her husband wasn’t diagnosed with Alzheimer’s until his death.
But it’s a common problem among the elderly. One in eight seniors over age 65 and one in two over age 80 years have Alzheimer’s, said Seth Zamek, owner/executive director of the Senior Helpers office in Fort Mill. About 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s.
Koffman said she had noticed things weren’t quite right with Boyd for years, but it wasn’t until they moved to Sun City Carolina Lakes in 2008 from Florida and she saw their checkbook, which her husband kept, that she knew there was a real problem. The checkbook was a mess, she said. Some bills he hadn’t paid and others he’d paid twice.
“He had trouble keeping facts straight – it was almost like I couldn’t trust what he said,” Koffman said. “Someone would say ‘come for dinner at 8’ and he would swear they said 6.
“But he still played bridge – and well,“ Koffman said.
His care was becoming increasingly difficult, though, and she was beginning to need help at home when he had to have emergency surgery for a ruptured intestine last July.
After that, her husband went into a nursing home, first at Agape in Rock Hill and then at White Oak Manor in Waxhaw, N.C.
He went rapidly downhill after that, Koffman said, even becoming quite delusional at one point.
“He had a lot happen to him,” Koffman said of her husband’s last year. “It was a nightmare for him, I know.
“It was hard on all of us,” she said, referring to herself and their four children.
Koffman said what helped her the most was Hospice and Palliative Care-Charlotte Region and the many Alzheimer’s caretakers’ meetings she attended, including the Senior Helpers’ Alzheimer’s support group in Sun City and others at nursing homes.
On Friday, July 13, area families like the Koffmans will have a chance to learn from one of the best in dementia care – to help them cope and survive the effects of this disease.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) and Senior Helpers will co-sponsor a free hands-on workshop about Alzheimer’s disease for families in the evening and a display of the AFA Quilt to Remember from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. There will also be an educational seminar for health-care professionals in the morning.
The events are part of a nationwide tour by AFA and Senior Helpers to help families and professionals navigate the chronic disease. The tour features Teepa Snow, a renowned dementia expert who has shared her practical care strategies with tens of thousands of people caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
The free workshop for family caregivers will provide essential information about dementia, including warning signs, coping strategies for behavioral challenges, communication tips and how to have a positive and meaningful relationship with loved ones with the disease throughout their journey. The display of more than two dozen panels from the AFA Quilt to Remember illustrates the life stories of real people with the disease.
Zamek said it’s estimated that nearly 1,600 people in Lancaster County and 80,000 people throughout South Carolina have Alzheimer’s disease, a brain disorder that results in the loss of memory and other intellectual functions. Its incidence doubles every five years beyond age 65, and it is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
“Families providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia will benefit from attending this conference,” Zamek said. “They will learn practical strategies, tactics and techniques that they can put to use immediately in their day-to-day lives as they care for their loved one.
“The national expert that Senior Helpers is bringing here to our area is an incredibly dynamic speaker yet conveys her message and lessons in down-to-earth fashion,” he said.
“The seminar with Teepa Snow will offer tremendous, much-needed support for caregivers,” Koffman said.
The workshop will be held at the University of North Carolina’s Cone University Center, 9205 University Blvd., Charlotte. Here’s the schedule:
• 9 a.m.–noon: Interactive session for health-care professionals in McKnight Hall Auditorium to earn up to three continuing education units. Register at www.regonline.com/dementiastrategiescharlottenc.
• 6-8 p.m.: Free workshop for families and caregivers in McKnight Hall Auditorium. Register at www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1070816.