Families Face Alzheimer's Disease Head On

Friday, September 11th 2009, 6:17 pm
By: News 9

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- It's a pain that affects thousands of Oklahoma families living with a relative afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. Many have been forced into the role of caretaker.

Alzheimer's disease has turned the lives of the Coffman family upside down. For seven years, they have been dealing with the diagnosis of one of their own, who is slowly slipping away.

Snapshots show Lois Coffman's life in happier times: dining on a Caribbean cruise, enjoying a family vacation and being named Teacher of the Year. Today, at 66-years-old, she's a shadow of her former self, stricken with Alzheimer's disease and completely dependent on family.

"All the things she did for me for 40 years, I'm trying to do for her now," Carl Coffman who cares for his wife with Alzheimer's disease said.

Carl has been married to Lois for 46 years and is her primary caregiver. This self-described impatient, Type-A personality admits it hasn't been an easy transition.

"Everything slows down, extremely slow," Carl said. "Not all days are bad, there are good days. It is the place that's really hard for me to slow down to."

But it's a road he's not traveling alone. His children Chris and Carla live nearby.

"Everybody tries to make plans as far as what we're going to do this week and a lot of that hinges on what Mom's doing," Chris Coffman said.

It's a situation many Oklahomans can relate to.

"There's about 70,000 Oklahomans who have Alzheimer's disease and over 113,000 who are unpaid family caregivers," Mark Fried with the Central Oklahoma Alzheimer's Association said.

To that end, the Alzheimer's Association will hold a caregiver conference next Wednesday. Carl says the organization has been a great help to his family and plans to attend next week. He's also credit his faith with helping his family through this difficult time.

"Our prayer from the very beginning was that the Lord would give us the grace to handle it and that what we do by from day to day," Carl said.

The idea behind the conference is to provide support of course, but also to give these new caregivers tools for dealing with Alzheimer's.

The Caregiver Conference will be held on Wednesday at the Express Event Center on Northwest Expressway.

Learn more about the conference.