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Book provides support to dementia caregivers

Author Laura Wayman discusses issues, concerns that arise
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Alzheimer’s is a subject Laura Wayman knows well. Her father died from the disease. Now Wayman, who works for Seniors First in Auburn, has written a book for caregivers of those suffering from dementia. “Sixty percent of the time, caregivers of memory challenged adults get sick and pass away before the patients,” Wayman said. That’s also something she’s experienced. Her mother, who was her father’s caregiver, died of a heart attack before he passed away. “It was especially a shock to me in the business to realize there’s not a lot of support and encouragement for caregivers,” Wayman said. “There are approximately 16 million people caring for someone with some form of dementia.” Wayman, who has a degree in gerontology, said she’s always been interested in helping people age successfully. She has developed a program, The Dementia Whisperers, for caregivers. In addition she teaches a three-hour class for caregivers at Sierra College, as well as classes at Placer Adult School. “That class will be full and those caregivers are so hungry for information,” she said. “They come up after class and they’ll e-mail. They just need the support. It is just overwhelming.” Her book, “A Loving Approach to Dementia Care,” was the logical next step. Witnessing the need to reach out to caregivers prompted Wayman to decide to write it. Finding a publisher proved to be a challenge — but with a happy ending. She submitted an outline of the book to 50 publishers. They only acceptance came from Johns Hopkins University Press. “I’m very honored that a prestigious publisher chose to publish the book,” she said. Soon after accepting her idea, the publishing company assigned a senior editor to work with Wayman. Published in early May, it is available at amazon.com, through the author’s website and will get nationwide distribution. “The book is a go-to guide for caregivers,” Wayman explained. “It is a compilation of my journey for the last 10 years working with caregivers — either professionals or with family — who had challenges. We worked together to find solutions, techniques and communication tools and just to get an overall better understanding of dementia and how it affects people.” Wayman said she shows caregivers how to make meaningful connections with their patients. “The book provides purpose and meaning to all of these challenges and lets caregivers know they’re not alone,” she said. One of the most important things is to remind them to take care of themselves. “They’re so busy caring for that person who has the diagnosis that often that caregiver gets forgotten,” she said. “This is one of the most difficult roles they will take on.” Because of the way dementia affects the brain, most people with dementia have difficulty realizing they need help. “You have to learn creative intervention to get them the care they need,” Wayman said. “The book is full of those ideas. You have to learn to speak dementia. That’s a special language. That’s when you’ll have those connections and get that cooperation. That’s huge.” One of the chapters in the book is devoted to Margie McKay, an Auburn resident who died last year of early onset Alzheimer’s. She was just 60. Pete McKay, her husband and caregiver, began working with Wayman after dealing with extreme struggles getting proper care for his wife. “I was stressed to the max by Margie’s aggression,” he said in an e-mail. “Laura showed our daughter Jennifer and me in 15 minutes how to calm her down. It was like magic.” He credits Wayman’s assistance with easing the family stress and getting his wife into a care situation that worked better with her type of dementia. “This book is for anyone who is a caregiver for anyone with memory-related problems,” he said. “It’s a great reference manual. ...It explains why the behavior is happening and how to deal with it.” ------------ “A Loving Approach to Dementia Care” by Laura Wayman See laurawayman.com or dementia whisperers.com or press.jhu.edu.