The Elrod Center for Family and Community, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, will host two Alzheimer’s awareness programs in the Elrod Center this afternoon at 3 and 5 p.m. Both programs, which are being offered as a part of Ouachita’s Christian Focus Week (CFW), are free and open to students, faculty, staff and members of the Arkadelphia community.
“We were recently approached by the Alzheimer’s Association, who informed us of their educational programs and asked us if we could facilitate discussions about the disease in Arkadelphia,” said Ian Cosh, vice president for community and international engagement. “We decided to host the programs during CFW as a way to help people think more broadly about how our faith impacts the world.”
The 3 p.m. session, “Know the 10 Signs: Early Detection Matters,” is an interactive workshop exploring what Alzheimer’s disease is and how to detect it early on. Recognizing the preliminary warning signs of the disease gives caretakers an opportunity to have their loved ones begin drug therapy, enroll in clinical studies and prepare for the future.
“Effective Communication Strategies” at 5 p.m. will help people understand the world of Alzheimer’s patients and how to properly communicate with them in attitude, tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. Attendees will learn how to decode patients’ verbal and behavioral messages, and receive strategies to help them connect and communicate well during each stage of the disease.
Having recently lost her mother and mother-in-law to Alzheimer’s, Judy Duvall, Elrod Center assistant director and coordinator of ElderServe, understands the significance of these programs for those who have been personally impacted by the disease.
“A person with Alzheimer’s could see a rug in the middle of the floor and think that it’s a gaping hole. If they’re afraid to get in the shower, you have to understand why it’s scary to them. These programs will provide useful facts and effective strategies that will help caregivers properly communicate with patients, and help them with simple tasks without overwhelming them,” Duvall said.
The Elrod Center plans to continue its partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association following CFW by creating support groups for local caregivers, who are often isolated in attending to loved ones.
“Sometimes people just need to know that they’re not alone. So I think creating informed opinions and not allowing unnecessary suffering is really important in this issue,” Cosh said. “It is my hope that these sessions and support groups will start an important conversation that Ouachita will facilitate for years to come.”
“The focus of CFW reminds us that we are all made in the image of Christ and, as Christians, we have the opportunity and challenge to be a mirror of that image to others, which carries over into our daily lives and the lives of our families,” Duvall said. “Those with loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s must ask themselves, ‘how can we reflect Christ as we minister to and care for our loved ones, as well as the ones who take care of them?’ Educating ourselves about this disease allows us to have the tools we need to love well with the strength that God gives us.”
Additional Alzheimer’s-related resources and helpful information can be found at www.alz.org/Arkansas or by calling the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24-hour help line: 800-272-3900.
For more information on the Elrod Center and its community outreach, visit www.obu.edu/elrod or contact the Elrod Center office at (870) 245-5320.
By Evan Wheatley, features editor