WESTMINSTER — Elizabeth Hanson president of the Alzheimer's Support Group of Carroll County, said a half-dozen special people give of themselves three times a month to allow members of the group to get and give support.
They sit with the family members suffering from the disease.
"The people who sit are devoted and not intimidated by the Alzheimer's patients," said Hanson. "They are caring and complete people who have something personal to offer."
From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. the second and last Wednesday of each month, as many as 50 care-givers gather at the Westminster Senior Center to share experiences about their loved ones who suffer from debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer's.Meetings are the third Frriday of each month from 1 to 3 p.m. at theSouth Carroll Senior Center.
"Some families bring their patients to the meetings, and the sitters are available to take care of the patients during that time," Hanson said. "The sitters will take patients to another room where they will play games, do a puzzle or just walk the room and talk."
Alzheimer's patients must receive constant care since the disease can cause memory loss, confusion and an inability to complete a series of events, she said.
The Alzheimer's Support Group of Carroll County was organized in 1985 by Sharon Baker, client services supervisor with the Bureau of Aging, and Karen Soisson, a geriatric evaluation nurse with the Carroll County Health Department.
"The employees in the health community and various staff at nursing homes and senior centers that service Alzheimer's patients have a good communication system, and they saw a need for care-givers to get support," explained Baker. "We started out at Carroll Lutheran Village with a panel and speakers in 1985, and from there it took off."
Baker said once regular meetings were established, some care-givers who wanted to attend could not because they had no one to watch their loved one.
"That's when we got the volunteers. We found former care-givers and people who (provided care) as their job. They volunteered their time for this group.
Families who have used the sittershave found their services to be invaluable. Their generosity allows care-givers to participate in meetings without being distracted.
When I go to the meetings, a sitter takes my wife and keeps her entertained. sometimes it takes a little and sometimes it takes a lot," said Milton Vane, a 69 year-old Finksburg resident.
Vane, whose 76 year-old wife, Corabelle, has suffered with Alzheimer's since 1984, said he is more comfortable participating in the meetings knowing that his wife is being cared for close by, but not in the same room.
"Itenables you to talk more freely and discuss your situation without embarrassing the patient," he said. "The meetings have been very helpful to me because I have been able to meet people who may have like problems."
Camille Schumacher has been a companion to the elderly for the last 12 y ears and started sitting with Alzheimer's patients just a few weeks after the support group was initiated in 1985.
"We started to do this because it enabled the care-giver to speak more freely," said the 66-year-old Marriottsville resident.
"You really have to have compassion, tolerance and consideration to be a sitter. Asitter must also understand the patients and why they do what they do."
Hanson said about 175 people are registered with the support group.
"Our basic purpose is to be supportive of the care-givers for the Alzheimer's patients. We want the care givers to know that there is such a thing as of a life of their own." she said.
Hanson noted members of the support group are care-givers not only for Alzheimer's patients, but also for patients who suffer from similar conditions, such as Parkinson's disease.
Mary Rogers, 59, of Sykesville, who has been sitting since 1988, chose to help because she enjoys beingwith them.
"We play bingo and cards while the two hour meetings take place," she said."We try to keep the patients busy. A lot of themhave stories to tell. They may not remember what happened yesterday,but they do remember their earlier years."
Anyone interested in joining the support gtroup or beoming a sitter should call Sharon Baker at the county's Bureau of Aging, 848-4049.