Alzheimer's Association offers Support, Hotline for Caregivers By Chris Rowett One of the worst aspects of Alzheimer's disease is also the best. "If there's anything that is good about Alzheimer's, it's that patients forget their behavior," said Edna Ellett, director of development and public relations for the Baltimore Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association. "So if a patient is giving someone a hard time, that person might want to walk out of the room, and then walk right back in. The patient has forgotten the incident." The Baltimore Alzheimer's Association was established 15 years ago to assist clients with the emotional, physical and financial issues associated with the neurological disease. Programs include 30 support groups throughout the region, a telephone hotline and a safe return program. "Alzheimer's patients tend to wander," Ellett said. "So patients are registered in a national registry. If the person is found, whoever finds them can call the 800 number and help reunite them with family." The association is one of the more than 115 service agencies that will benefit from Hopkins United Way contributions. There is no official membership in the organization, but support groups are open to anyone in Baltimore city and county and Anne Arundel, Harford, Howard, Carroll and Cecil counties. Some group meetings are held specifically for those just diagnosed with Alzheimer's; others are offered to caregivers and family members. "Sometimes you just want to scream," Ellett said. "If you want to scream, you can scream. Or if you want to laugh about some of the things, you can sit there and laugh. No one is going to judge you." Though some patients may want to avoid thinking about a will and issuing power of attorney, both need to be put in order, Ellett said. "Sometimes you can make decisions for yourself when you are still able to make decisions," she said. The association also has books and videos about Alzheimer's for loan and an emergency relief fund available if the caregiver is called away. "Most caregivers are elderly," Ellett said. "Our concern is that caregivers take care of the patients and wear themselves down. "We emphasize care for the caregiver," she added. "You just can't be with an Alzheimer's patient 24 hours a day."
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