Speaker discusses dealing with dementia

PHOTO BY NICOLE WALBY Karen Stobbe, a national speaker, talks Wednesday during the fifth annual St. Francis Senior Ministries Wellness Extravaganza.

A national speaker, caregiver and advocate spoke Wednesday during the fifth annual St. Francis Senior Ministries Wellness Extravaganza, sharing what she has learned from living and working with people struggling with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Karen Stobbe opened the event with her talk, “Being in the Moment.”

Stobbe was working as an actress, director, writer and instructor of theater when her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Stobbe’s parents were married for 56 years. She is one of six children and said she always was a “daddy’s girl.”

“He was an amazing person, a real renaissance guy,” she said.

Her father died 17 years ago and a year after he died, her mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia. She lived with Stobbe for 10 years and was admitted into a senior living community.

During her talk, Stobbe shared what she has learned over the past 40 years. She said it is important to know as much about a person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia as possible.

“The better care and connection you have with a person the better relationship you will have,” Stobbe said.

Stobbe suggested a person dealing with forms of dementia is like the writing on a chalk board; she said not all of their memories are taken away.

“They all are just trying to get through the day with the information they have,” she said.

Stobbe said she also has learned the importance of having a seat next to a person in their rooms.

“They know that you have time for them and are their equal,” she said.

In addition, it is important to listen fully to a person, not just with your ears; be real and genuine with them; think how you approach a person with dementia; and step into their world.

Stobbe said it helps to be creative to help build new neural pathways in the brain. During her presentation, she challenged the audience to several exercises to do just that.

“It is important to do something just a little different each day,” she said.

Stobbe stressed having patience.

“A person with dementia can surprise you if you just give them the chance; just have patience,” she said.