LEWISBURG - Home Instead Senior Care, an international network of more than 900 locations established in 1994, specializes in keeping patients of Alzheimer's and other dementias in their homes through a wide range of non-medical care.
Home Instead is offering four-session "Family Education Workshops" at its Lewisburg office. Held on two dates, the sessions began locally in June and are limited to nine participants each.
Each "chapter" uses live instruction, video and group discussion to help family members of Alzheimer's patients understand the challenges in caring for their loved one at home.
Jo Mueller, the community service representative for the Lewisburg Home Instead office, said that families of dementia patients often need to learn that behaviors never exhibited throughout a patient's lifetime can start occurring as the brain deteriorates.
"Having nine people in a group every month gives the sessions a lot more intimacy. People can say 'oh, my father does that, too' - it lightens the load a little bit, to know that others are going through the same thing."
The sessions are designed from materials gathered over years of research that are also used to train Home Instead's caregivers, said Joe DeLauter, director of the Lewisburg office, which serves Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Lycoming, Clinton, Montour and Columbia counties.
"The home office worked with experts in this field to develop these programs: they have been critiqued and evaluated to find the best things to incorporate into a training program, for both caregivers and family members," he said.
This series of classes feature an introduction to the symptoms and causes of dementias, a class in helping the loved one to share memories, a class in handling challenging behaviors and a class in helping keep patients active.
"We were happy we could acquire the space to have a training center ourselves, and be able to open it to the public," DeLauter said.
Simple things like keeping a journal, which Home Instead provides all its patients, can help stymie the more radical behaviors that come along with dementia, DeLauter said.
"When you encounter resistance, it helps to change the subject," he said. "It helps to take (him/her) back to something pleasant, to good times; it defuses the hostility and puts the situation at ease."
"People often find it's very difficult to deal with home care," Mueller said. "We get a lot of tears and frustration in our sessions, but we get a lot of laughter, too. We want to help people learn how best to work with their loved one's behaviors."
"Something like 80 percent of patients want to stay in their homes," DeLauter said. "We do whatever it takes to help them remain there - whether its laundry, medication reminders, hygiene or incidental transport. We have caregivers who will do anything from occasional overnight stays to give the family a break to 24-7 care."
Home Instead's Lewisburg office serves eight counties in central Pennsylvania. They have a list of support groups available for referral.
The Lewisburg office also is aiming to raise $200,000 for the "Walk to End Alzheimer's," an event sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association, which will be held Sept. 29 at Indian Park in Montoursville.
The workshops are free and open to the public. They are held at the Home Instead Senior Care office, 130 Buffalo Road, Suite 101, in the Creamery Building.
For reservations or class dates in October and November, call 522-6533 or visit homein stead.com/586. Home Instead also has a 24-hour hotline at 800-640-3914.