At first, I hardly noticed the change in her demeanor.  It was two years ago and my Mom had been living alone for six years since Dad passed away. She was nearing her 85th birthday.

As a long-distance caregiver, I could ignore a forgotten name or misspoken word.  But when Mom decided to resign as treasurer from an organization she had served for 52 years, I instinctively knew something was up.

She gave up e-mail next, explaining that she wasn’t sure she could turn on the computer and there were too many jokes in her inbox. So we cancelled her Internet service.

All of these “symptoms” occurred after her cardiologist told her he wanted to conduct a stress test to ensure that her two stents were working properly.  True to form, she had convinced herself he would find something wrong and worked herself into a state of anxiety the likes of which I had never seen.

Good news though — all was well. However, the damage was done. Her self-confidence had eroded.

Her 87th birthday is next month and her memory has continued to decline. She came to visit me this summer and I could tell she was uncomfortable being in a different place.

One night she said, “I know you are a relative but I can’t think of your name.”  So, I told her and she wrote it down and put it in her purse. Then she apologized for not remembering I was her daughter. 

Her ability to process information also continues to decline, and she struggles to say what she means in conversations. Talking with her on the telephone is very difficult as she tries to describe people because she cannot remember their names.

A family member goes to doctors’ appointments with her because she is unable to completely relate what was said. She now has a companion aid six days a week who helps clean, cook, and keeps her engaged in conversation, helps grocery shop and helps with other activities.

The worst part is that she is aware of what is happening.  My father had Alzheimer’s and she cared for him. Now she believes she will follow the same path. 

I tried discussing assisted living, pointing out that there would be socialization and activities. The upkeep of the house would no longer be an issue.

But she said, “That’s one foot in the grave.”

She wants to stay in her home.

And, if you think the stories about trying to get your elderly parent to turn in the car keys aren’t true, think again. It is their last vestige of independence and they use every possible tactic to keep driving.

While my caregiving duties have increased three fold during the past year, I realize this is what I must do to ensure that my mother has the best quality of life possible for as long as she is here.

It is very hard, being an independent person, to realize you are a lifeline.  Every day I have to tell myself that she cannot live the life I want her to live, but the one she chooses.

For all of you who are caregivers, I hope you will understand from my story that you are not alone.  There are many of us, and our circumstances vary. Some have family support; some do not.  But we do what we must to take care of our loved ones.

November is National Caregivers Month and it is important to remember and honor those who keep their loved ones safe and secure.  I identify with each of you and urge you to not be ashamed to reach out and ask for help be it family, friends, or a volunteer from Community Caregivers. 

For more information about Community Caregivers, visit our website at www.Communitycaregivers.org or call 456-2898.

Caregiving is a tough job. It’s especially tough when the one you’re caring for has Alzheimer’s disease or some form of dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America estimates that as many as 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer's disease and one to four family members act as caregivers for each individual with Alzheimer's disease.

The need is great            

In response to this growing problem, the Northeastern New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is again partnering with Community Caregivers and the Bethlehem Public Library to hold a series of programs for caregivers.

Brief descriptions follow; for more information, see our website at www.commuitycaregivers.org. All of these programs are free, but registration is required:

Know the 10 Signs: Early Detection Matters on Sept. 6 — A 1-hour interactive workshop outlining the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's disease; separates myth from reality and addresses commonly held fears about Alzheimer's and dementia;

Memory Loss, Dementia, and Alzheimer's Disease: The Basics on Sept. 20 — A 1-hour overview of dementia and Alzheimer's disease and their progression;

Improving Communication on Oct. 4 — A 1-hour program outlining the causes of common communication issues, barriers we create, and tips and strategies for communicating with someone with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia;

Validation Theory and Therapeutic Fibbing on Oct. 18 — A 90-minute interactive discussion about how to use validation to enter the world of a person with Alzheimer's disease. Your loved one may not be able to come back and live in your reality, but you can take trips to hers or his;

Recognizing and Coping with Caregiver Stress on Nov. 8 — A 60- to 90-minute program discussing what causes those who care for individuals with Alzheimer's and dementia to experience emotional and physical stress. The program also addresses how to handle the stress effectively and how humor can help; and

Holiday Hints for Caregivers on Nov. 22 — A one-hour discussion about how to better manage responsibilities during the busy holiday season to make the experience as positive as possible for you and your loved one.

Make plans to attend

The series drew record attendance last year (at the Guilderland Public Library), so plan to register early. Contact Tonya Garmley at 867-4999, ext. 200 or tonya.garmley@alz.org.

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Over the past two months, Community Caregivers has added six people to its board of directors. The all-volunteer organization, which has been providing services to people in the towns of Berne, Bethlehem, Guilderland, Knox, and New Scotland for many years, recently expanded its service area into the city of Albany.

The organization is pleased to welcome the following new directors:

Girish Bhatia is the president and chief executive officer of GCOM Software Inc. GCOM Software provides services to the state of New York and New York City. The company was nominated as the fastest-growing company in the Capital Region in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Girish and his staff of over 200 serve the information-technology needs of the commercial and public sector.

Cindy Bulger is a resident of Delmar who retired in 2011 after a 35-year nursing career focused on critical care, home care, and public health. Cindy’s home-care experience includes seven years with the Albany Visiting Nurse Association and four years of hospital-affiliated adult home care at Overlook Hospital in Summit, N.J. Cindy is also a volunteer in the Habitat for Humanity ReStores and the Albany County Medical Reserve Corps.

— Joann Dunham Estes of Clifton Park is managing director of Computer Aid Inc. CAI is a global I.T. service firm that is actively engaged in managing over 100 Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies around the world. Prior to her work with CAI, Joann was a regional sales vice president, Government Solutions Sector for ACS, a Xerox Company in Clifton Park. Joann’s expertise in business development, strategic planning, and partnerships within the state and local public sectors is welcome on the board.

Mary Scanlan of Glenmont founded the Scanlan Communications Group in 1989. Her contributions to the arts, government, and the field of communications are extensive. Mary gained national media experience as an editor at Harper's Bazaar. She also served as director of Public Information for the New York State Department of Social Services under governors Hugh L. Carey and Mario Cuomo. Mary has written professional articles and her personal essays have been broadcast on the local National Public Radio affiliate. Mary has served on the board of directors of the Affording Housing Council of the City of Albany, Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood, and DePaul Housing Management.

Nicole Stein resides in Guilderland and has been the vice president for marketing at the State Employees’ Federal Credit Union since 2010. Prior to joining SEFCU in 2008, Nicole's professional experience spanned marketing and public-relations agencies and not-for-profit organizations. Nicole's community involvement is extensive. She currently serves on the board of directors of Rensselaer County Chamber of Commerce and previously sat on the boards of the Daughters of Sarah Jewish Foundation, the AIDS Council of Northeastern NY, and the Hebrew Academy of the Capital District. Nicole is also a past president of the American Marketing Association, NY Capital Region Chapter.

Carolyn Sutliff lives in Selkirk and is a Certified Financial Planner and Managing Director - Investments with Wells Fargo Advisors. A long-time supporter of Community Caregivers, Carolyn has also been active in the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts and served as trustee of the Methodist Church in Pleasantville, N.Y. Carolyn helped found the Habitat for Humanity Chapter in Westchester County and continues to be supportive of its work. Carolyn also served on the Investment Committee of the United Way, focusing on senior issues.

Editor’s note: Mary Neumann is on the Community Caregivers Publicity Committee.

Community Caregivers is pleased and honored to announce it has received a $2,000 grant from Berkshire Bank. The award was presented to help the organization fulfill several key aspects of its mission, specifically providing services to low- and moderate-income individuals and educating caregivers.

The grant is particularly helpful as Community Caregivers expands into the city of Albany. 

The organization’s neighbors-helping-neighbors service model initially served the community of Altamont. Over the years, its service area grew to include Berne, Bethlehem, Guilderland, Knox and New Scotland. Following a grant from thestate’s Department of Health in 2012, Community Caregivers began providing services in several neighborhoods in the city of Albany.

“We are very pleased to have a new community partner, and I thank Berkshire Bank for their generosity. The funds will be put to very good use,” said Tom Tipple, Executive Director of Community Caregivers.

Berkshire Bank is also expanding its presence in the Albany area. Based in Pittsfield, Mass., Berkshire Bank now has more than 20 branches in the Capital District. 

Editor’s note: Mary Neumann is on the Community Caregivers’ Publicity Committee.

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— Photo by Max Chmura

Golfing for a cause: Following a downpour at the Community Caregivers’ golf outing, held on June 12, sponsors of the event posed with the co-chairs and executive director. From left are: Dave Brobek, president and chief executive officer of Blasch Precision Ceramics; Chris Cassidy, senior vice president of Investments at Wells Fargo Advisors; Committee Co-chair Elaine Roemer; Michael Castellana, president and chief executive officer of the State Employees’ Federal Credit Union; Committee Co-chair Regina DuBois; and Tom Tipple, executive director of Community Caregivers. Other sponsors include Adirondack Environmental Systems Inc., Albany Medical Center, and the Times Union.

It’s amazing how familiar that phrase — and that cheery little “thumbs up” icon — have become. Social media websites like Facebook and LinkedIn are part of our lives. They allow us to connect in ways that weren’t possible even a few years ago.

Social media websites are particularly wonderful for not-for-profit organizations. We are very pleased to announce that Community Caregivers is now on Facebook and LinkedIn. So please, find us online, then “like” us and “follow” us — and let us know what you think.

Like us in person, too

Do you have some free time this summer? Could you spare a few hours a week or month?

We could really use your help. The number of neighbors requesting help is outpacing the number of new volunteers.

So, if you’ve been thinking about volunteering, give us a call. And if you haven’t been thinking about volunteering, maybe it’s time to consider it. There is no substitute for the wonderful feeling you get when you help a neighbor.

Here are some current requests we would like to fill:

— If you enjoy light housekeeping and want to make another person happy and comfortable in his or her living space, we have several clients who are currently in need of someone to help them with light housekeeping tasks on a regular basis.

— Spending a few hours once a week with someone who is homebound can turn a dull day into an extraordinary one. If you have a few hours a week to spare and enjoy good conversation, volunteering to be a friendly visitor is for you. We have several opportunities for both male and female volunteers.

— We are looking for a female volunteer with a flexible schedule to assist a sociable, physically challenged individual who needs someone to keep her company and help her learn to navigate independently in the community.

— We have a client who needs a ride from regular medical procedures in Albany to his home in Guilderland — one or two mornings a week.

— If you have three hours once a week, you could help a recent widow and her adult son complete their errands within a small area in a convenient Guilderland location. (You may get a few errands done yourself!)

— Do you speak Greek? An older gentleman with a hearing impairment whose native language is Greek would like visits from a male volunteer (and perhaps go out for rides or coffee).

In addition, we are always looking for volunteers to provide transportation for our regular clients as needed from week to week.

Alzheimer’s Association and CC pair up

The Alzheimer’s Association and Community Caregivers are presenting a series of caregiver information workshops on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The programs will be held at the Bethlehem Library on Sept. 6 and 20, Oct. 4 and 18, and Nov. 8 and 22. All sessions will take place at 1 p.m.

There is no charge to attend, but you must register. For more information, go online to www.communitycaregivers.org. To register, contact Tonya Garmley at 867-4999, ext. 200 or tonya.garmley@alz.org.

Volunteer orientation schedule

All Community Caregivers volunteers must attend a one-hour orientation session before they can provide service to our clients. If you’re interested in attending, pre-register by calling our office at 456-2898 or by sending an e-mail to info@comunitycaregivers.org with your name, e-mail address, and telephone number.

Sessions are currently scheduled for July 17 at 10 a.m., Aug. 15 at noon (feel free to bring a brown bag lunch), and Aug. 27 at 11 a.m. — all will be held at the Community Caregivers’ office.

If you’d like to schedule a one-on-one session or plan a session to accommodate a particular group or organization, please e-mail info@comunitycaregivers.org or call us at 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Mary Neuman is on the Community Caregivers Publicity Committee.

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