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Taking the 'alone' out of Alzheimer's battle

A community forum on Alzheimer's helps people caring for loved ones get through the uncertainties.

By ALICIA CALDWELL, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 18, 2002

A community forum on Alzheimer's helps people caring for loved ones get through the uncertainties.

ST. PETERSBURG -- The woman was clearly troubled.

She had placed her 76-year-old mother, diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, in an assisted-living facility three months before. But there was one issue she didn't quite know how to deal with: When should she tell her mother she was never coming home?

Kathy Ambrose, 41, of St. Petersburg, was one of 70 people who attended a community forum to discuss Alzheimer's on Monday afternoon at the University of South Florida Activities Center in St. Petersburg.

The forum was held in conjunction with a special report titled "Alone Together: A year in the Life of an Alzheimer's Support Group," published June 9 in the St. Petersburg Times.

Speakers included a social worker, a doctor and caregivers profiled in the report. The caregivers took turns answering Ambrose's question.

"You evade the answer," said Reed Franz, 76, of Seminole, whose wife, Hilda, is in a nursing home. "You have to learn how to tell little white lies."

Mary Lorentz, 73, of Pinellas Park said her husband would ask her why he couldn't come with her when she left the nursing home. She tells him she is going to the grocery store. Or to fill the car with gas.

"I tell him, "Why don't you take a nice nap and I'll come back and see you,' " she said.

Attending the forum were representatives of the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, who provided information about the kinds of care and services available to Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers.

The forum was sponsored by the Times, in cooperation with USF St. Petersburg and the Alzheimer's Association. A second forum will be held from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Monday at Pasco-Hernando Community College, Performing Arts Center, 10230 Ridge Road, New Port Richey.

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