Agency helps couple cope with Alzheimerâ??s

Jim Oess and his wife both wear bracelets to advise people that Mara is an Alzheimer's patient in the event of an emergency or if she accidentally wanders away.

Jim and Mara Oess were a few short years from retirement, when Alzheimerâ??s suddenly changed their lives.

During an Alaskan cruise vacation in 2004, a ship photographer came to snap a portrait. After the photograph was taken, Mara asked, â??When is the photographer going to come around.â?? Twice, she also forgot their room number. Something was wrong.

When they returned home, Mara experienced episodes of memory lapse at her school, where she taught history for nearly 30 years. She soon went through a series of tests and was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimerâ??s. Her teaching career ended two months later.

â??Her mother had also had Alzheimerâ??s, and she was in the middle stages of it at that time so I kind of knew what was coming.â??

Six years ago, Mara and Jim moved into a fully-handicapped accessible home that includes extra locks, ramps, and arm rails in the bathroom. Although her mobility is limited, Mara still enjoys going for walks, watching television and occasionally answering questions on â??Jeopardy!â?? However, even though Jim is retired, caring for his wife is a full-time job.

â??Youâ??ve got to ask for help at some point, it beats you down,â?? He said. â??It bears down on you more than you realize at the time.â??

The Area Office on Aging is a Toledo-area agency that specializes in support and in-home care programs to help patients live a long, quality, independent life.

The AOA helps assist with bathing, dressing, and meal preparation, along with other daily tasks. VP of Planning and Program Development, Justin Moor said the AOA also provides a â??Variety of services that give their loved ones that help provide care for them a temporary break.â??

A care-giver from the agency visits Mara two or three times per week so Jim can get a break to help maintain his own life.

â??Iâ??ve got somebody staying here that I can trust with her and they get along well,â?? said Jim. He continued, â??I feel a lot more relieved to be out doing something, whatever it may be. I donâ??t have to sit and worry, oh gee, whatâ??s going to happen.â??

With the help of the agency, Jim and Mara can enjoy retirement in the most comfortable way possible. The Area Office on Aging encourages people to join them at the Caregiver Expo on November 3rd to support, thank, and educate caregivers. The event starts at 10 a.m. and goes through 2 p.m. at the SeaGate Convention Centre in downtown, Toledo.

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