County offers help for dementia


By Sue Cody


W2W Memory Care Clatsop 2Sometimes the signs are subtle. Grandma loses her car in the store parking lot. She doesn’t remember what you just said, or the names of her friends. When it happens over and over, it is time to get a diagnosis.


Memory loss can be an early sign of dementia. This is the term used for loss of mental abilities that interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and it can be devastating for families and loved ones. It is a brain disease that affects memory, thinking and behavior that grows worse over time.


Family members may chalk up small changes to aging. But when Grandma puts a roast in a drawer instead of the refrigerator, it becomes clear her safety is at risk if left on her own.


This is a tough time for loved ones. How do you take away the car keys of someone who has always been independent? When do you decide that Grandma can’t live by herself or needs to move to a care facility?


There is no easy answer, but help is available. With 20 percent of the Clatsop County’s population age 65 or older, there is concern for appropriate care. The Alzheimer’s Association reports 1 in 9 people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s disease.


In Clatsop County, support groups and memory care facilities offer help for people suffering from dementia, and their loved ones. The Aging and Disability Resource Connection of Oregon (ADRC) offers a guide to services for those with aging or disability needs. Michelle Lewis, community program supervisor, at the NorthWest Senior and Disability Service can guide people to services: 800-846-9165.


W2W Memory Care Clatsop 1Support groups


Coping with someone who shows signs of dementia and making decisions for them, is difficult. Caregivers must find ways to deal with people who aren’t totally incompetent, who feel powerless as their faculties diminish and can be uncooperative.


“These are hard points along the journey,” says Rosetta Hurley, Alzheimer’s Support Group facilitator at Clatsop Care Center, one of two area support groups.


Hurley became a facilitator after the death with her mother, who had dementia.


Each case is unique, but she says certain considerations must be dealt with, such as safety, financial concerns, legal steps, care and comfort. Many families find one child or family member who takes charge of care, though not everyone can cope with that responsibility.


That is when an Alzheimer’s/dementia support group is helpful. Sometimes a caregiver just needs to vent and express pent-up grief. There is a sense of loss for who the person once was, Hurley says, and the knowledge that the disease is terminal.


The support group is a safe place for people to express their feelings, from anger to sadness and frustration. Members don’t judge each other and respect confidentiality. Hurley encourages members to share their experiences, but to give advice sparingly.


Peer support helps, just knowing others have similar experiences. Members take comfort in realizing they are not alone or “bad” people, and they can get validation for the actions they must take.


Hurley suggests trying different support groups to find the right fit:

  • Astoria Alzheimer’s & Other Dementia Family Support Group meets from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on the third Monday of each month at Clatsop Care Center, 646 16th St., in the first-floor conference room. Contact Rosetta Hurley at 503-325-0313, ext. 222.
  • Warrenton Alzheimer’s Support Group meets from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at NorthWest Senior & Disability Services, 2002 S.E. Chokeberry Ave. For information, call Grace Bruseth at 503-738-6412.


W2W Memory Care AvamereCare facilities


When keeping a loved one at home is no longer possible, memory care residential facilities can create a safe and supportive haven. In Clatsop County, there’s Avamere at Seaside, and Clatsop Care Memory Community in Warrenton.


Behavior is the biggest challenge in caring for people with dementia, says Jenny Gildner, administrator at Clatsop Care Memory Community.


Residents can’t communicate clearly, she says. They are often confused, and many feel violated if they need assistance dressing or cleaning themselves


Security is paramount to the safety of the residents, so entrance and exit doors are locked at the Clatsop Memory Care Center. By fencing an outdoor area, however, residents can go outside to a patio and re-enter through another door, creating a loop. “One resident grabs her walker and just walks the loop, over and over,” says Jo Banta, administrative assistant at the facility. 


In both memory care homes, names on the door, memorabilia, photos and personal decorations are familiar touches that make residents feel comfortable in their new environment.


Meeting the residents in their own reality is sometimes tricky, says Gildner.


“There is one woman who owns the building,” Banta says.


“Someone else believes she works here,” Gildner says.


Both staffers play along by making transactions or assigning small tasks.


“We try to respond in a way that makes them feel worthy,” Gildner says.


Clatsop County Memory Care Community has 21 residents in a center that can host 32.


Avamere at Seaside has an assisted living center and the memory care unit. The lobby has a welcoming fireplace and sitting area.


The memory care unit serves 41 residents, some of whom enjoy outings to a park, museum or something simple, like visiting a candy store.


Avamere at Seaside plans to start a dementia support group soon. Its mission statement is: “To enhance the life of every person we serve.”


The Way to Wellville and the Columbia Pacific CCO support healthy activities and wellness for everyone.




NorthWest Senior & Disability Services offers support for:

  • Education
  • Financial considerations
  • Insurance
  • Advance directives
  • In-home care
  • Family caregiver support
  • Medicare and Medicaid help
  • Health and wellness programs
  • Elder abuse prevention


See or call 800-846-9165.