Guest: Fran Emerson – Alzheimer’s Association
Host: Sally Smith - Author/Resource
literature on age-related
disease and healthy aging
Sally Smith: Welcome to Age to Age. I’m Sally Smith. Let’s talk.
Fran Emerson of the Alzheimer’s Association is here. Fran has opened my eyes through sharing her
vast experience in dealing with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and caregiving. She has taught me ways of looking at
Alzheimer’s, ways of making the best of situations, looking for positive
turnarounds with patients by knowing them, looking at the disease, and having a
certain attitude yourself. I’ve learned
this through literature that she has written, as well as some classes that have
quoted her, and talking with her.
Now, I hear, the good news is that Fran is actually teaching some
courses herself, which is exciting to me.
And for anyone that would have the opportunity to take one, it would be
an amazing experience, an insight into these subjects we’re dealing with. Tell us, Fran, a little bit about your
course, what it deals with, what sort of goals you have.
Fran Emerson: I have been
working with Trident Technical College, Continuing Education Department, to put
on a one-day dementia training, Alzheimer’s and related disorders, an
eight-hour, straight through, training.
The idea of this, it usually runs on a Saturday, is to have a
certification course; Trident actually issues this certificate, for people who
want to train, you know, they’ve maybe already trained as certified nursing
assistants, but they want that extra component to go into the workplace and
enter the field of caregiving for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The day is broken into three parts, mainly, which is the disease
itself, understanding it, what it is, what it looks like, how it manifests
itself. Then we talk about
communications in the middle part of the day.
And then we talk about the challenging behaviors and sometimes
catastrophic reactions, understanding why those things happen, and how all
three modules are interconnected, at the end of the day. We do some role playing, which is fun, and
it’s very interactive. This attracts not
only professionals, CNAs (certified nursing assistants) and nurses, family
caregivers have attended this course as well.
It’s very important for family caregivers to get as much information and
effectiveness into their caregiving as they can.
Sally Smith: I think it’s
fascinating that it’s open to lay people as well. Because, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m one of
thousands that woke up one day and my life was changed forever due to my mother
having dementia. I didn’t really know
that much, and I went to the library where there were books, miles long, on
raising children and having children, and about four books on anything close to
what I was getting ready to go through, so having an eight-hour training is
What I love and respect that you have done is, you can have to-do
lists about locking the door and making sure the stove is turned off, but
there’s the bigger picture, the overview, of the whole situation, the disease,
how the caregivers interact with the patient, having goals that are so much
bigger than the minutiae of the everyday activities. It’s the attitude and the whole way it’s
approached that, I think, you have such a grip on. And that’s something that just does not come
across in a book very easily. It doesn’t
come across in a brochure, in the little bullet points about what you do with
dementia, and that’s the message I find wonderful. And where else do can you get it? You know, someone like you with the
experience to say, it can be done this way.
Will you be offering this elsewhere?
I wish you’d, you know, have a speech on your Alzheimer’s website giving your philosophy. Are there other ways that this information
can be made available, or is it mainly through your course?
Fran Emerson: There are a
variety of different ways. I don’t just
do this teaching course. I go out and do
family caregiver workshops pretty much on demand. You know, facilities will say to me, we have
family members who are struggling, struggling with the fact that they have
placed their loved one in a facility; they’re struggling with the illness, they’re
struggling with the whole thing, can you come out and do a little
workshop? So I will go out and talk
about some of the things we’ve talked about, Sally, and try to get caregivers
feeling better about themselves.
They’re doing a wonderful job.
And the first thing I try to encourage them to do is to look in the
mirror and say what a jolly good person they are, and pat themselves on the
back. You know, so many caregivers are
agonizing over how well they’re doing.
So, yes, I can go out. I can talk
like this, discuss things in family caregiver workshops. We’ve got a great conference coming up, May
21st, at the Elks Lodge here in Charleston.
That’s an annual event. That’s
Sally Smith: Well, it’s a
great opportunity wherever you can be found.
I can vouch for that. I think
that it’s so interesting that you are so available. And I want to put it out there, as I speak to
our listeners right now, because, really, in my opinion, if I developed the
disease, you’re the one I want taking care of me. I want somebody that thinks like you. And the more people in institutions, you
know, the actual professionals, I think your course should be part of whatever
certificates and reeducation. If someone
wanted a church or assisted living, or a group of caregivers, or whatever,
wanted to get in touch with you to help organize a time when you would come and
speak, would they contact you at the Alzheimer’s Association, what number would
they use to reach you, Fran?
Fran Emerson: They would me
call me at 1-800-860-1444. That’s a toll
free number. You call me, and as many
spaces I have on my calendar, I will be able to come out and try to fulfill the
needs of your group.
Sally Smith: Let me ask you
one other question, which is, you are, luckily our representative here in our
but many people may be listening across the country, is there a national
organization where they could locate the person in their area. Would they go to a national website? How would they get in touch with someone in
Fran Emerson: It’s very
easy. Go to our national website: www.alz.org.
Go there and you will see on the menu options Find your local chapter, and you will find an office near you, with
all offering services similar to what we offer here in South Carolina.
Sally Smith: Okay. Thank you so much, Fran. I appreciate your being here, as always. And thanks to our listeners too for joining
us. We welcome your suggestions,
always. This is Sally Smith, Age to Age, saying good-bye and wishing
you courage and joy on your journey. We
are all connected.
If you enjoy
listening to Sally Smith, you can buy her book, The Circle. It’s the story of how she personally
responded to her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a wonderful gift of hope for anyone with
a parent with dementia. Just click on
Sally Smith’s name under the Health Professionals tab on the Podcast home
page. All profits support research at
the Center on Aging. Thanks.