Memory matters: Local woman advocates in Washington for needs of older adults

Monday, November 1, 2010
Ed Rellergert, Richard Dippold, Walter Fehrmann, Edna Mulcahy, and Virginia Holsinger listen as Carol Dippold leads the discussion on Halloween memories Thursday, October 28, 2010 during their Memory Matters group session at Lutheran Family and Children's Services in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

Carol Dippold has worked one-on-one with seniors at Cape Girardeau's Lutheran Family and Children's Services office for over 20 years. Last month, she took that experience to Capitol Hill, as she and others representing the elder care work force met with legislators to speak about the needs of older adults. Dippold was invited to the conference by the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, with which LFCS is affiliated, and she was one of only four in Missouri to attend.

Dippold, a licensed professional counselor and licensed clinical social worker, sees a growing need for senior services, including doctors and therapists specializing in geriatrics; more affordable in-home care; social groups and day care programs for adults with memory loss; and people who can train educators to train others in elder care.

In the past 20 years, Dippold has also sensed more awareness of memory loss issues and the needs of older adults, and says more services are becoming available through home health operations.

In Cape Girardeau, LFCS is addressing these issues through in-home counseling for seniors and weekly groups for people with early and advanced memory loss.

Memory Matters, designed for those with early memory loss, meets on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and includes group discussion, homework and memory exercises, a short walk, games and lunch. Monday Meetings, held on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., are for adults with advanced memory loss, and also serve as respite for caregivers, says Dippold. The meetings include group discussion, large and small muscle exercises, lunch and games. While Memory Matters includes more reasoning and memory activities, Monday Meetings focus on sensory activities, like identifying sound recordings or identifying an object in a can without looking at it. Dippold assesses participants before they start the class, and then every six months to see whether they're retaining information. Dippold doesn't necessarily expect improvement, since dementia is progressive, but hopes that participants will at least retain what they've learned and keep their minds active throughout the week.

"I tell them that just like eating healthy and exercising, you can't just do it once a week. You need to do it daily," says Dippold. "There's a lot of laughter and social time. That's what I try to really hit upon, is being social, keeping them alive and interactive and alert, rather than the exercises they do."

Every two weeks, LFCS gives mental health sessions at Southeast Missouri State University's Hoover Center. During the 50-minute sessions, Dippold and fellow counselor Laura Coder discuss family losses, changes that come with age, current events like the SEMO District Fair or holidays, or reminisce about childhood.

Back at the Blattner Drive center, Dippold leads an Alzheimer's caregiver support group from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on the third Monday of every month.

LFCS also does in-home counseling for homebound seniors struggling with depression, grief, anger, loneliness and issues with grown children. The organization coordinates with other local agencies services meal delivery, nursing, hospice and homemaker activities.

LFCS's Perry County office provides counseling, respite and an Alzheimer's caregiver support group, which meets from 10 to 11 a.m. on the first Wednesday of the month at Immediate Healthcare. Dippold travels to Perryville to provide those services, as well.

"Older adults have such a wealth of wisdom and experience," says Dippold, adding that she's always had an interest in working with older adults. "They have such a great appreciation and understanding for life that I want to surround myself with that type of individual, because they have so much to offer."

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