Coverage Areas:  National |  South Carolina |  Aiken |  Beaufort |  Charleston |  Columbia |  Greenville |  Myrtle Beach |  Rock Hill

Speaker says Alzheimer’s requires being kind, not being right

MYRTLE BEACH – “Caregiving is complicated.  It changes your life,” Melanie Bunn told a group of about 50 family members and caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

She spoke at HealthFinders recently during a program to help caregivers understand people with dementia. Bunn is a dementia training specialist and Alzheimer’s support group facilitator.

One of her key points is the value of finding support groups. Among those in the Pee Dee area, St. Michael Church in Murrells Inlet hosts a group on the first Monday of each month.

The talk was hosted by Lower Cape Fear Hospice/Mercy Care, which is in large part an outgrowth of efforts spearheaded years back by Franciscan Sister Connie Fahey and supported by the Diocese of Charleston.

Slides showing a normal brain and the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s are striking. Researchers have identified areas of the brain that deal with memory, language and other functions.

Bunn said a person with Alzheimer’s has “brain failure. The brain is dying.” Therefore, it’s important to give clear and simple direction or information.

“We all get in situations where we get in a tangle with a person with dementia,” she said. “You can’t do this all by yourself. You’ve got to have skills, support and resources.”

People who are taking care of a spouse or parent also need to take care of themselves, Bunn explained.

“Support groups are places where you go to be with people who get it,” she said.

While discussing serious issues, Bunn interjected audience participation and humor in her presentation. And then, as she related stressful scenarios, Bunn would tell the participants: “Take a deep breath … and let it go.”

“I don’t care how smart you are or how hard you work. You need help,” she said.

Using photos showing how brain cells have died off, Bunn explained that “the problem with early Alzheimer’s disease is people lose the ability to move things from the conveyor belt, short term memory, into storage.”

Even though your mom or your husband may have said the same thing several times, or has trouble doing simple things, she said it is better to be kind than to be right.

“You have a tremendous impact on how a person with dementia reacts,” Bunn said.

She advised caregivers to avoid confronting an issue head-on, but to ask the person to tell them more, to describe the thing they are saying or show them what to do.

“One of the biggest mistakes we make is we want people to just sit there,” Bunn said. “Our brains are trained to be busy.”

In taking care of the person, the real problem is brain failure and the solution is the relationship, she said.


By: Tommy Howard, special to The Catholic Miscellany

  • Diocesan Events Calendar
    View All Events
    Nov 17 Diocese of Charleston Native American Catholic Heritage Celebration
    From the Calendar of Native American Ministry
    Nov 18 Vietnamese Martyrs Celebration
    From the Calendar of Vietnamese Ministry
    Dec 1 Black Catholics Heritage Celebration
    From the Calendar of African American Ministry
    Dec 15 Simbang Gabi for Filipino Catholics
    From the Calendar of Filipino Ministry
    Dec 25 Diocesan Television Christmas Special Fox 21
    From the Calendar of Ethnic Ministries
    Jan 412:00 am Class 2019 Ordination Retreat
    From the Calendar of Diaconate
    Jan 812:00 am Retiro Espiritual de Emmaus
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil
    Jan 1210:00 am Junta de Equipo Diocesano de Emmaus
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil
    Feb 911:00 am Ordination of Permanent Deacons
    From the Calendar of Diaconate