Dale McKenzie and his wife, Maxie, of Chaffee, Mo., have spent the past year coming to grips with a difficult diagnosis: Alzheimer's disease.
"They become dependent on you, like a kid in some ways," Maxie McKenzie said. "If they could help it they sure would, but they just can't."
The Missouri Alzheimer's Plan Task Force will host a community forum at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Osage Community Centre to get input from families like the McKenzies and discuss the issues surrounding Alzheimer's patient care.
This will be the fourth of five forums held across the state by the task force, chaired by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau.
"I've had a number of elderly friends who have struggled with Alzheimer's," Kinder said. "I've seen heartbreak, agony and the devastating impact it has on families and caregivers who are stretched to the limit."
As chairman, Kinder and his staff have coordinated the forums and pulled together advocates in an effort to compile a report of recommendations to the governor and legislature due in November.
"We have a tidal wave coming as the baby boom generation ages. A huge bulge in Alzheimer's will tax our society, our governments at all levels and our families," Kinder said.
In Missouri, Washington University is doing outstanding research into neurological diseases, he said.
Maxie McKenzie would also like to see additional Alzheimer's research. Dale McKenzie's sister also suffered from Alzheimer's disease, and Maxie McKenzie worries about her children facing it.
"Even if they can't find a cure, they can find ways that would make it easier for the patient so they can have a better quality of life," she said.
Maxie McKenzie said the most important thing is to treat Alzheimer's patients as human beings.
"If you treat them with dignity, it makes them want to help themselves," she said.
Her husband added, "You can't fall into the trap of self-pity or it will destroy you."
Dale McKenzie, 75, a retired Assembly of God minister, attends a weekly memory improvement class offered on Thursdays by Lutheran Family and Children's Services in Cape Girardeau.
"The programs really help," Dale McKenzie said. "You're with people who have kindred problems, and you can help each other because you're all going through the same thing."
Maxie McKenzie attends a support group for Alzheimer's caregivers at Lutheran Family and Children's Services also. "We all go down the same road," she said.
The encouragement she receives through the support group helps her to keep going, even when she's feeling depressed.
"If you can get encouragement, you can go the extra mile," she said. She'd like to see more assistance for Alzheimer's patients at home.
"If someone could come by and encourage you. Just check in to see how things are going and how their memory is progressing," she said.
Carroll Rodriguez, director of public policy and communications for the St. Louis Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, said the previous forums were "enlightening."
"We've gathered input and thoughts from people about what's working for them and where they see gaps in services or where there are unmet needs they feel need to be addressed," Rodriguez said.
Kinder hopes to develop concrete recommendations for legislation in the next legislative session.
"Additional state funding could always be used, but that isn't a prospect now given the state's budget situation," he said.
1625 N. Kingshighway, Cape Girardeau, MO