Help available for families dealing with Alzheimer’s

Published 11:18 pm Friday, September 27, 2013

Marking World Alzheimer’s Month, providers are reminding sufferers of the disease and their caregivers about resources available in Suffolk to help them cope.

Carol Gurioli, its family program manager, described a range of resources the Alzheimer’s Association Southeastern Virginia Chapter offers.

“From this office, we provide 24-hour helpline support for anyone in our chapter area,” she said.

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The phone number is 1-800-272-3900. “If you call that, you get a person,” Gurioli said. “During business hours, you will actually get a person in Norfolk. After hours, you still get a person, but at our contact center in Chicago.”

Those manning the phones after hours in Illinois can still access local information, she added.

Gurioli said it’s important for the lines to be open around the clock. “Caregivers have questions, and they don’t limit themselves to 9 to 5, Monday to Friday,” she said.

The chapter also sponsors two support groups in Suffolk offering face-to-face interaction with folks qualified to help, Gurioli said.

One meets in the Portsmouth Center at Lake Prince Woods, 100 Anna Goode Way, the third Monday of every month at 3 p.m., she said.

Anyone wishing to attend should register with Woodie Rea, director of spiritual life at the retirement community. The number is 923-5531.

“The group has always been designed to offer three things: support, for when the role of caregiver gets too heavy; networking, so the people know they are not alone; and education, for people living in those situations,” Rea said.

The other chapter-supported group, Gurioli said, meets in the community room at the back of Farm Fresh, 1401 N. Main St., the second Tuesday every month at 2 p.m.

Those wishing to register for this group should call Bill Bell at 539-0178.

For families unfamiliar with Alzheimer’s that are facing a new diagnoses, Gurioli said a community specialist visits Suffolk “every other month” to give an overview of the disease and resources available, plus discuss other topics, like simply what to do first.

The “family orientation” sessions occur at the Department of Social Services, 135 Hall Ave. The next is scheduled for Nov. 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

“From time to time we offer caregiver classes and training for new staff in facilities that care for people with Alzheimer’s,” Gurioli said, pointing folks to to learn more.

Meanwhile, there are also commercial providers out there for Alzheimer’s sufferers and caregivers. One is Home Instead Senior Care, which is currently offering two free resources: a “Confidence to Care at Home” kit, with information, tips and resources; and a smartphone app designed to help families manage the reality of the disease.

Deneen Evans, community service representative at the company’s Suffolk office, said Home Instead also “trains caregivers to manage symptoms and behaviors of Alzheimer’s and other dementia.”

Larry Neal, owner of Home Instead’s Suffolk office, which also serves Isle of Wight and Southampton counties, including the cities of Smithfield, Franklin and Courtland, noted what the experts are saying: that one-third of families either face Alzheimer’s now or will do so in the future.

“We want to replace their fears with a sense of confidence that they are equipped to handle any situation,” Neal said.

For more on what Home Instead has to offer, visit or call 774-5051.

“Alzheimer’s disease is no respecter of persons,” said Gulioni, who has been with the association one decade this November.

“It’s progressive and ultimately fatal. Dealing with a progressive condition that can last eight to 10 years, there’s always a need for legal and financial planning, and definitely for emotional support, both for the diagnosed and the caregiver.”