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Dementia: When family or friends suffer memory loss, the effects rip at the social core

by WayneTimes.com
September 7, 2019

The State Police were looking for Russell A. Hoeffner, age 61, from  Main Street in Red Creek. Hoeffner has dementia and went missing on Wednesday (9/4) around 10:00 a.m.  He was reported missing after a family member returned home from work at approximately 9:30 p.m.

Hoeffner was seen in a neighbor’s yard around 2:30 p.m. looking for the family dog. Then he was   spotted around 3:00 p.m. on Canada Street walking onto Dry Bridge Road.

State Police aviation and K-9 units, as well as additional Troopers were deployed looking for Mr. Hoeffner.

The State Police bloodhound, Schini, out of Troop D in Oneida County, located Mr. Hoeffner around  9 a.m. on  Thursday.  He was found northeast of his residence, after he had fallen down a steep 50-60 foot ravine. Ironically, State Police had searched the same ravine in the dark, but did not go far enough to find Hoeffner.

Using ropes and pulleys, Russell Hoeffner was brought up the ravine and treated at the scene for minor scrapes and bruises and mild hypothermia. He was taken to the hospital to be checked out. Ironically, the very family dog, Mocha, that Russell had been searching for when he was spotted on Wednesday afternoon, stayed by his side during the ordeal. 

The issues that the Hoeffner family are going through are not unique. Numerous families and friends are touched by dementia, but finding sources and a sympathetic ear could be a problem.

For several years the Alzheimer’s Association, Rochester & Finger Lakes Region chapter serves a nine-county region, including Chemung, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates counties.

Regular meetings, were held at The Terrace at Newark, an Assisted Living Community at 208 Route 88 South in Newark. The Terrace is licensed to provide services to people who have a diagnosis of dementia.  “This is done in our “Memory Care Neighborhood”, that is, a specific area of our building that is specially designed to meet the needs of people who require more supervision and services as a result of having memory loss, said Terrace Owner/Manager  Chris Vitale. 

Dementia (a state of confusion) can be caused by a number of factors – but primarily is caused by having vascular issues, Alzheimer’s disease, Frontal Lobe brain disease, as well as Parkinson’s and other health related diseases.

According to  Vitale, families would only attend the regular support meetings at their facility until either their loved one was placed into assisted living, or they died from Alzheimer’s/dementia. The rotating attendance of those Wayne County residents needing  help with understanding the stress changed, or evolved. cause it to be  difficult to make new people aware of the meetings and their purpose.

According to Olga Monacell, PhD and Communications Manager for the area Alzheimer’s Association, they offer workshops and conferences for families to learn about dementia, recognizes warning signs of dementia, better communicate with their loved ones etc. A team is located in  the main office in Rochester and is responsible for providing services in Wayne County. “These staff members frequently travel to Wayne County to ensure that our constituents receive the same level of services as our constituents in Greater Rochester and the rest of Finger Lakes region,” said Monacell. 

The Alzheimer’s Association also holds office hours on 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the Department Office of Aging and Youth in Lyons. The community manager who is assigned to hold office hours is new, but Amy Haskin from Aging and Youth, would be a good contact for families to connect with the Rochester Chapter. These services include care consultations for families affected by dementia, support groups and respite for family caregivers, and social activities for individuals with dementia and their care partners.

Care Consultations

“Master’s-level professional staff help families navigate their journey with Alzheimer’s and other dementias by phone and in-person. During a free care consultation, we assess needs, discuss care planning, and address home safety and other concerns such as wandering. To arrange a care consultation, call 1-800-272-3900,” said Monacell.

On a personal level, Mrs. Ruth Mann of Newark, described the history and hurdles she and her family went through with her husband, Chuck. “He died a year ago in July at the age of 81. He suffered with Alzheimer’s for eleven and a half years,” sad his wife.

Chuck felt the beginning and onslaught of memory loss as well as Ruth. She now feels her husband really began signs of memory loss in 2000, well before the actual diagnosis in 2007. Following a trip to the Memory Clinic in Rochester and resulting tests   the family’s worst fears were confirmed.  Chuck refused drugs at first, eventually went through a drug regime that failed to produce any cognitive results and finally found the Excelon®Patch that worked for him.

As the years progressed, a male home aid with experience in memory loss patients, provided four hours per week, working with Chuck on projects and skills. Still, after six years it became obvious to all that Chuck needed a higher level of care. “I told him we were going to move him into a facility and he said okay. He was always cheerful and a real sweetheart,” recalled Ruth. Chuck spent a year and a half at the Terrace, where Chuck enjoyed the people and activities, before even more skilled nursing was required. He transferred to the Wayne County Nursing Home. Ruth said the staff were wonderful, but eventually he lost the ability to speak. A stroke further complicated the slide to death. “We were lucky. He (Chuck) was not combative, or hostile. He remained very calm, added his wife. Ruth was also lucky to have nearby daughters.

Unlike many who have gone through the Alzheimer’s/memory loss experience, Ruth wanted to stay in touch and hopefully help other people on the journey. A support group, ‘Just for Coffee’ is meeting this week. Ruth stated that many who have gone through the experience, lose contact on the “next part of the journey”.

Wayne County Sheriff Barry Virts applied for a grant and paired up with the Wayne County Health Department to provide ‘Project Lifesaver’ to Wayne County residents.

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