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Alzheimer's awareness
EA Alzheimersweb
Amanda Graves, LPN, Kim Murphy, LPN-Charge Nurse, Jessica Tillman, LPN, and Pam Hall, RN. - photo by Photo provided / Coastal Courier
Last year, people chuckled when they heard about retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's husband's love "interest" in one of his fellow residents at a nursing home in Phoenix, Ariz.
Both of them suffer from Alzheimer's, a debilitating disease that eventually ends in death.
O'Connor, the first female Supreme Court justice, left the bench in 2006. One reason she retired was to care for her husband of 54 years, John O'Connor. Mr. O'Connor, 77, was diagnosed with the disease 17 years ago, and now lives in the nursing home.
An estimated 16 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's, including 4.5 million Americans. The disease has affected so many people and can severely impact families. Alzheimer's patients require medical attention, and often the family is not equipped to handle the care.
With so many people affected there was a need for increased awareness and education concerning. Subsequently, November has been designated as Alzheimer's Awareness Month. When former President Ronald Reagan, an Alzheimer's patient, died on June 5, 2004, the world became more aware of the devastating effects a diagnoses of Alzheimer's can have on a family.
Despite years of research, it is not known what causes Alzheimer's disease, and at present there is no cure. The disease normally occurs in people after age 65. Two known risk factors for Alzheimer's are age and family history. One of the most common effects of Alzheimer's is memory loss.
According to Elise Stafford, administrator of Coastal Manor nursing home in Ludowici, Alzheimer's and dementia symptoms are similar. Both conditions require patients to have assistance with daily living.
"They need help with feeding, toiletry and, in some cases, walking. They have an inability to make decisions based on cognitive impairment," Stafford said. 
Coastal Manor has a 45-bed specialty care unit for Alzheimer's and dementia residents.
"Sixty-five percent of the residents at Coastal Manor had a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer's," Stafford said. "Consequently, an Alzheimer's unit was added so these residents would have an environment wherein they could strive."
The facility has a fenced courtyard and magnetic door locks for the safety of the residents.
Because of the special unit, there is an increase in the residents' activities.
"We do a lot of special things with the residents. We try to do things with them that they are used to doing. They love to wash dishes and fold clothes. If we have mechanic residents, then we have gadgets they can tinker with. The retired teachers call bingo. We want the clients to feel useful and to succeed," she said.
Some of the residents have dolls they feed. "The dolls remind them of their children. They have pictures of family members such as their spouses, children, grandchildren, parents and siblings. Pictures are visual and cause recognition," Stafford said.
The residents also participate in chair aerobics and go on walks. "They love to dance. We play music that was popular during their era. Alzheimer's clients can carry on conversations with one another, and they understand what is being said," noted Stafford.
"Sam Moore's wife was one of our Alzheimer's resident for five years. He would visit her every day for six hours, and would wait for the moment she recognized him. He would rejoice when she recognized him. Although she passed, he still came to the nursing home to volunteer," Stafford said.
Recently, Moore signed himself in the nursing home, and is now a resident. 
Coastal Manor has nurses assigned specifically to the Alzheimer's unit. Some of the nurses are Becky Williams, Kim Murphy, Amanda Fullmore, Jessica Tillman, Pam Hall, Julia Greer and Sarah McClain. Stafford noted the nurses do a wonderful job with the residents.
For more information, call Stafford at 912-545-3392.
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