Training offered for dementia caregivers

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During the 15 years that Lucy Novelly cared for her mother, who had Alzheimer's disease, she was not aware of the smattering of nonmedical, in-home care services for seniors that could have helped her.

Instead, Ms. Novelly educated herself about the disease and received support from an informal network of family. When it became unsafe for Marcella Novelly to live alone, she was moved to an assisted living facility.

After her mother died, she became Ms. Novelly's inspiration for starting Home Instead Senior Care agencies in Bethel Park and Washington, Pa. Home Instead, which has locations in more than a dozen countries, provides trained caregivers to travel to seniors' homes, often supplementing support by family.

"This is what we needed for Mom," Ms. Novelly said. "And, if I needed help, there have to be lots of others who need help."

Ms. Novelly, Home Instead franchise owner and CEO, also serves as instructor for the free training program called "Alzheimer's or Other Dementias CARE: Changing Aging through Research and Education." It is targeted to families struggling with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.

The program will next be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 26 and March 26 at the Bethel Park agency, 2000 Oxford Drive, Suite 415.

In addition to information on the symptoms and causes, the program focuses on four techniques for managing the behavior of the person with dementia:

• Giving simple choices;

• Redirecting harmful behavior;

• Taking blame for a situation;

• Removing items or the person from an upsetting environment.

A scenario that demonstrates the use of some of these techniques, for example, would be someone with dementia having difficulty knitting a scarf, which in the past had been a pleasurable activity.

"You can say, 'Sorry, I gave you the wrong needles; let's have lunch instead.' This way, you are taking blame so the loved one does not feel [upset and] redirecting the activity to lunch," Ms. Novelly said.

Denise Corcorkan of Moon, who attended the Jan. 22 workshop, said she received affirmation of her care techniques for her mother, Jean Martin, 77, of Bulger, who is in the middle stages of Alzheimer's.

"I make sure she is hydrated, and I watch that she eats properly and not a lot of sweets," Ms. Corcorkan said.

She also learned about compiling a journal of significant moments, stories and experiences from her mother's past to help keep her mind fully engaged. Those afflicted with Alzheimer's disease have difficulty with short-term memory, so this approach taps into long-term memory.

The program was developed by Home Instead with the assistance of a panel of experts on the disease.

Alzheimer's is the most common disease that causes dementia, the gradual deterioration of mental functioning that impairs a person's ability to perform normal activities. There is no cure for dementia at this time.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's, with 5.1 million of that total older than 65.

It is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

A primary goal of Home Instead is to keep seniors safe, comfortable and independent in their homes.

"People love to be in their homes," Ms. Novelly said, "and I'm so proud that we hire people in this community to take care of people in this community."

Preregistration for the workshops is preferred, but walk-ins are welcome. To register: 412-595-7554. Details: or


Margaret Smykla, freelance writer:


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