Dee Dee Harris, Family Service Director of Alzheimer’s North Carolina, Inc. (AlzNC), is a people person. For over 18 years she has focused her passion on helping families in North Carolina deal with dementia. Dementia casts a wide net that describes the loss of cognitive function that inhibits one’s ability to carry out daily activities, decreases reasoning, and hampers communication. It’s an umbrella term that includes Alzheimer’s, Lewy Bodies (DLB), Frontotemporal Dementia, and Vascular Dementia. No two cases are alike. The specific type of dementia, along with one’s personal resources, and how each family deals with a loved one with dementia presents a different puzzle. AlzNC receives countless numbers of phone calls a day from people who simply don’t know where to turn. Dee Dee’s response to each phone call, each individual puzzle, is unique — and it’s personal.
“Every call is different and touches every aspect of care. Some of the initial calls we get are from those who are worried that someone they love might have dementia. Or a loved one has just received a new diagnosis. In either situation, I’m here to help.” Whether it’s just a few minutes on the phone or hours worth of guidance, Dee Dee Harris is steadfast in her commitment to helping families of loved ones with dementia. She wholeheartedly stands behind the nonprofit’s mission:
Alzheimer’s North Carolina, Inc., is dedicated to providing education, support and services to individuals with dementia, their families, health care professionals and the general public while raising awareness and funding for research of a cause(s), treatment, prevention and cure for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
My Loved One is Showing Signs of Dementia. What Should I Do?
As people age, some memory loss and confusion is normal. “My first suggestion for someone who suspects a loved one has dementia is to schedule an appointment with their doctor for evaluation. I give advice for how to start that conversation. It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s scary. But getting to the doctor and receiving an early diagnosis can have an enormous impact on the progression of the disease.” Dee Dee offers this and other advice when there are signs that a loved one has dementia:
1 – See your primary care physician.
Dementia is complicated. It evolves as the disease progresses. Having a doctor on board as as baseline, from the beginning, is important for both the history and the consistency of care.
2 – See a neurologist or geriatrician who specializes in dementia.
They will run a number of tests to diagnosis the specific type of dementia:
• Cognition tests (MMSE or Mini-cog)
• Neurological exam
• Imaging tests (CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans)
3 – Make a plan.
Educate yourself and the patient about the disease. Develop a personalized care plan in collaboration with medical professionals and family members.
4 – Find support for yourself.
Alzheimer’s North Carolina advocates for the person with dementia, while also focusing on the well-being of the caregiver. They can recommend home care agencies such as Home Care Assist to hire part-time respite care. Local support groups for caregivers of loved ones with dementia allow you to share stories, get advice, and connect with people in similar situations.
My Loved One Has with Dementia. Now What?
Loved ones of someone who has recently been diagnosed with dementia often don’t know where to begin. Most often they are referred to AlzNC by their health care providers or they have done some research and are ready to take the next step. Alzheimer’s North Carolina offers these families another layer of support. Dee Dee Harris listens and provides these individuals with direction. It’s more than just hand-holding, a lot of what she does is about making connections. Arming these families with the tools and local resources they need to best care for their loved ones with dementia.
When Dee Dee answers these types of calls, she listens, “It’s the person on the other end of this phone call that I focus on. I know that the person with dementia is cared for. It’s the well-being of these caregivers that I worry about.” She and AlzNC make recommendations based on the specific needs of both the patient and their families. AlzNC provides physical materials on many dementia-related topics including memory exercises and nutrition. Materials include referrals to local support groups, physician, home care agencies, estate planning attorneys, memory care programs, and more. (Additional information and resources are available on their website at www.alznc.org.)
At Home Care Assist, we know that when a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, the reality ahead can be difficult to imagine. It’s people like Dee Dee Harris and organizations like Alzheimer’s North Carolina that make it their life’s mission to remove some of that uncertainty. With them, families of loved ones with dementia may find it a little easier to plan for the future.
Home Care Assist Helps Find Part-time and Respite Care
If you’re caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia, Home Care Assist can help you find the part-time, respite care that you need. As the disease evolves, you may find yourself needing more hired in-home care. Our platform matches the careseeker to vetted and qualified caregivers based on their specific needs. Find a caregiver suited to your loved one’s needs — activate your FREE 15-day pass now.