|Woman gives hugs, support for Alzheimer’s caregivers|
Frances Cooper (right) looks through a
scrapbook with Alzheimer's patient Ernestine Moore and Moore's husband,
Weldon. A UMNS photo by John Gordon.
By John Gordon*
Jan. 10, 2007 | FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS)
It's not unusual for those who care for Alzheimer's patients to shed
tears the first time they attend a support-group meeting at First United
The group's leader, Frances Cooper, 87, feels their pain. Her
husband, Stanley, died in 1990 after a four-year struggle with the
"I just had a passionate determination (to) help someone else that
was going through the same things that I did," Cooper explains.
Frances Cooper (left) hugs Lorene Cox
at a support group meeting.
A UMNS photo by John Gordon.
Members of the support group include sons and daughters, and husbands
and wives of those in various stages of Alzheimer's. While they compare
challenges, some of their loved ones sit in a nearby room, struggling
to play simple games.
Hugs for all
"I greet everyone with a hug and they leave with a hug," Cooper says. "The touch is important."
Caregivers discuss medical treatments. "There's no cure, but there's
hope," Cooper reminds them. She also advises them to make time for
Caregivers compare the progression of Alzheimer's disease to a light
bulb slowly dimming, until loved ones can no longer recognize their
closest family members.
"You lose them entirely, but you lose them slowly," says Janet
Sherwood, whose husband, Bob, was an engineer for an aircraft company.
He now suffers from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
"This person disappears in front of your very eyes," Sherwood says.
"And all you can do is love them and care for them, and make sure that
they don't hurt themselves."
Tio Marchesseau says her husband, George, is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. He is now in a nursing home.
"We've been married 57 years (and thought) that we would spend our last
years together," Marchesseau says. "And it's hard not to be with him.
And he doesn't realize that he has a problem and I can't take care of
him; I have difficulties of my own."
The support group for Alzheimer's caregivers meets at First United
Methodist Church, Fort Worth, Texas.
A UMNS photo by John Gordon.
Marchesseau says the support group has helped her during challenging
times. "Words can't tell you what we all think about Frances," she says.
"She is such a compassionate person and caring and follows through, and
cares for you even at other times, not necessarily meetings."
Between meetings, Cooper often phones members of the support group or drops by their homes.
"To get to know the people individually makes a major difference,
because then you feel freer to express your feelings," says Weldon Moore
during a home visit by Cooper. "That's the thing that Frances has done
so beautifully." Moore cares for his wife, Ernestine, who has
Award for public service
Cooper was named a 2006 Jefferson Awards winner for local public
service in the Dallas area and she attended an awards presentation in
Washington D.C. She says she was proud and humbled. "I actually don't
expect an honor or an award," she says. "It's what I do. It's what I
want to do."
As she reaches out to caregivers, Cooper remembers the first signs of
her husband's illness and how she dealt with its progression. "He was
trying to read the newspapers, and that's the first thing he did every
morning before he went to work. And he handed it to me and said, 'Read
this to me. I can't read it.' And that was the shocker."
Cooper shares with the support group what she told her husband after
tests confirmed the diagnosis of Alzheimer's. "We sat hand in hand and
said, 'No one's done this to us. We have not done it to ourselves. It's
this way now, and together we're going to handle it the best we can.'"
*Gordon is a freelance producer and writer based in Marshall, Texas.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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