Local woman helps people deal with Alzheimer’s
Laurie Sampson, a client care manager with Senior Helpers of Niles-Lincolnwood, pairs caregivers with seniors around north Chicagoland. | Contributed photo
Updated: February 25, 2013 11:38AM
Losing a parent to Alzheimer’s disease gave Laurie Sampson a new perspective on life.
“I realized I was making a lot of money and doing of things for myself, but wasn’t doing much for anyone else,” she said.
Last summer Sampson left her job as an accountant to pursue a career in elder care services. Now a client care manager with Senior Helpers of Niles-Lincolnwood, she pairs caregivers with seniors for in-home assistance across the north Chicagoland area.
“It’s very difficult sometimes but it’s very rewarding,” Samson said of her new post. “I love what I’m doing.”
Q: What do you like the most about your job?
A: At the time when my father had Alzheimer’s, I had no education about and understanding of the disease. So the best part about my job is that I get to educate families about the stages of the disease, and to let them know that nothing that is said or done by an Alzheimer’s victim is a personal attack. It’s the disease.
Q: In what ways do caregivers improve an elderly person’s life?
A: I get this question all the time and, for some reason, people think of caregivers as someone who takes care of the elderly who cannot take care of themselves. This is not it at all. We teach all of our caregivers to allow the senior to do as much as they possibly can without help, and even to encourage them to do things they think they cannot do. It’s about independence and self-respect. We will help when needed but our focus is on what people can do, not on what they cannot do.
I remember with my own father how a loving family member made him feel childlike. He used to always say to me, “Laurie, please tell her I can do it myself.” If a person can do something on their own we should not take that from them. That is what we try to do at Senior Helpers. We want seniors to be independent and, if they no longer need us, how great is that?
Q: What effect does Alzheimer’s disease have on families?
A: As a daughter of an Alzheimer’s victim, I can tell you first hand it is devastating, especially in the later stages of the disease when the language ability is lost. If you know about the disease, you know that curse words and negative language outlast nearly everything else. You can’t understand how your loved one who adored you is now using expletives at you. I had taken it personally and it hurt a lot, but the truth is the part of the brain that guards “taboo” things is one of the last to go. So now I understand and it’s not personal at all.
Q: How can family members cope with caring for a loved one who suffers from dementia?
A: Please go to the free seminar series with dementia care specialist Teepa Snow in March at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge. She is the only person who has been able to explain Alzheimer’s to me in a non-technical way that I could understand. Believe me, it will help so much.
But, if that’s not possible, join a support group. There are many in our area. Contact the Alzheimer’s Association or the Alzheimer’s Foundation. They are both non-profit organizations and they are there to help. Don’t rely just on family or friends. This is a baffling disease and you need people who have been there and are on the cutting edge of new treatments.
For more information on Senior Helpers and the Teepa Snow seminar series on Alzheimer’s disease, see www.seniorhelpers.com/lincolnwood.