Ventura Dementia Support Group

By Phil Chandler, Owner of Right at Home of Ventura County, Home Care Agency

Many individuals with serious chronic illnesses find that meeting and discussing their illness at support groups provides comfort and tips in dealing with the disease. The Breeze will be highlighting local support groups for several different conditions in future issues.

Dementia isn’t a specific disease. Instead, dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning. Though dementia generally involves memory loss, memory loss has different causes. So memory loss alone doesn’t mean you have dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of a progressive dementia in older adults, but there are a number of causes of dementia. Depending on the cause, some dementia symptoms can be reversed.

Alzheimer’s disease is by far the most well-known and common type of dementia. Common symptoms include memory loss, confusion, difficulty communicating, anxiousness and paranoia. Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the buildup of abnormal proteins called amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain.

Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia. The main symptoms include memory loss, impaired judgment, decreased ability to plan, and loss of motivation. It is caused by bleeding within the brain from a stroke that causes cause brain damage.

Lewy body dementia is the third most common cause of dementia. Main symptoms include sleep problems, memory loss, hallucinations, and frequent swings in alertness. It is caused by abnormal proteins, called Lewy bodies, that appear in nerve cells and impair functioning.

None of these major types of dementia can be cured or reversed, but doctors will use a wide array of therapies and treatments to improve the patient’s quality of live and alleviate symptoms.

There are about one hundred other types of dementia, and they differ by the area of the brain that is impacted and the mechanism of nerve cell damage. Most dementias lead to (currently) irreversible cognitive impairment.

Family members of those affected by dementia have a great support group that is facilitated by the Coast Caregiver Resource Center and co-sponsored by the Cottage Hospital of Santa Barbara, Community Memorial Hospital, and Alzheimer’s Association of the Central Coast. They meet at Community Memorial Hospital on the second Friday of each month from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM in the Nichols Auditorium on the 8th floor. Community Memorial Hospital is located at 147 North Brent Street, Ventura.

The group is led by Carolyn Kopp, Family Consultant for the Coast Caregiver Resource Center, and typically has between 15 to 20 attendees. Attendance is limited to family caregivers and other family members.

Barbara Hess is a long time participant in the group. She joined after her husband, Jerry, was diagnosed with Alzheimer ’s disease. They have been married 63 years. Barbara said, “Jerry has always been active, and was working well into his 70’s. As his memory problems became more severe, I joined this group. I have developed many friendships and learned from the variety of experiences that have been shared.”

The next meeting will be held on May 13 from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM at Community Memorial Hospital.

For more information, call Carolyn Kopp, Family Consultant for the Coast Caregiver Resource Center at 492-0601 or go to http://www.cottagehealth.org/ .

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