Families Benefit from Healthy Living Programs

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Judy Wilcox reflects on her job as care giver for her mother, Pat Neidlinger, who has been diagnosed with dementia. “I’m so glad I took the class when mom was in the early stages of the disease. It demonstrated what to watch for and how to anticipate various situations. I love my mom. I see that her memory is getting worse because she repeats a question over and over without understanding my answer. She is still able to stay by herself while I’m at work and will tell me when I get home, that she feels better. She seems to be in a mild form of depression when I’m away,” Wilcox said.

The Area Agency on Aging (AAA) offers a menu of programs that are dedicated to better health outcomes at any age. Four of these programs are scheduled to be offered in the South County area in upcoming months. Past participants share their successes below in their own words and those of their instructors.

Creating Confident Caregivers (CCC)

“I see now that I was in denial about what my husband’s confusion was indicating. I tried to explain it by blaming it on medication, diet or lack of quality sleep. The CCC class has certainly helped me understand the continuum of dementia and its association with various diseases. You don’t just wake up one morning and have dementia. Understanding that confusion and lack of memory are not his fault has helped me become more patient and compassionate. This is going to be a constant challenge for me, but I no longer feel so defeated,” said one of the class participants.

“Thank you for all you did to help us wade through the tremendous amount of information we needed to have and for making the classroom atmosphere a safe place to discuss things that are not easy to talk about….I highly recommend that family members take this class together,” said another class member.

Creating Confident Caregivers is a program for those caring for loved ones with dementia or memory loss. This six-week training uses the university-tested Savvy Caregiver Program and provides participants with information and resources to better manage the tasks and stress of caregiving. Participants learn about how dementia affects the brain, managing behaviors, improving caregiving skills, handling everyday activities more easily, and how to take care of yourself so you can better care for your loved one.

Creating Confident Caregivers will be offered at the Vicksburg District Library on Wednesdays beginning on August 17 through September 21, from 4:30-6:30 pm. Call Patti Stratton, LMSW, at 269-373-5141 to ask questions and to register. Classes are free with donations accepted.


Norma Bour, MS, RD, Master Trainer for Personal Action Toward Health (PATH) reports: “I first met Betty as a PATH participant at a senior apartment building about a year ago. Recently I returned to that building and bumped into Betty. Betty shared that in a year’s time since she began to better monitor her blood sugar she is no longer classified as a person with Type 2 Diabetes, but rather as one with ‘pre-diabetes’. She attributed this change in status to her efforts and the PATH Program.”

KW, a PATH graduate says: “It was a wonderful opportunity for people who are dealing with chronic conditions. Although our group had many different issues, we had many problems in common: fatigue, stress and pain. We were each able to add to a brainstorming list and gain additional options. Setting goals and assigning a confidence level allowed me to set and achieve realistic goals for each week.”

PATH (Personal Action Toward Health) is for people who have long-term health conditions such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes, depression, fibromyalgia and heart disease. Family members, friends and caregivers are also helped by this workshop, developed by Stanford University. There is also a class devoted entirely to management of diabetes that will be offered later this fall in South County.

PATH: 6 Weeks to Better Health will be offered at the Vicksburg District Library on Tuesdays beginning September 13 to October 25 (skip October 4) from 1-3:30 pm. Space is limited to 16 participants but a waiting list will be established if necessary. Pre-registration is required by calling South County Community Services at 269-649-2901.


Mary, a 75-year-old Matter of Balance graduate, unexpectedly met her instructor six months later. She shared that she was still doing the class exercises and was noticing increased strength and endurance. She went on to share details about a trip to New York with other seniors and how she had been able to study the subway system map and independently use the subway to get to the Brooklyn Bridge and walk the scenic length between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Her instructor could not help but notice her newfound confidence in her abilities, and was thrilled to hear that Mary was now planning a trip to Europe.

Older adults who once worried about falling and restricted their activities have benefitted from Matter of Balance classes. The program helps seniors to improve home safety, overall balance, flexibility and strength. A new session is being planned for South County this fall. For more information, call Marilyn Reed, LBSW, at 269-373-5224.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Area Agency on Aging services and its Healthy living Programs is welcome to call South County Community Services at 269-649-2901 for more information and a current calendar of Health Living offerings.

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