Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Drawing face of clock part of test for signs of alzheimers disease

How do I know if my Mom or Dad has signs of Alzheimer’s disease? Making the Decision to Seek Help

Did you know that 1 in 10 adults over the age of 65 will have Alzheimer’s disease? At the beginning the signs may be hard to discern. The early stages could be confused with simple signs of aging.

Quick reference for links mentioned in this article:

Mini Mental State Exam –

Science Alert Video on Phases of Alzheimer’s Disease and Effect on Brain –

Learn More About Alzheimer’s Disease –

Helping Hands ADS Program –


Understanding the Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Understanding how Alzheimer’s disease effects the brain is helpful for those that are daily trying to help a loved one make sense of the sometimes incomprehensible. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease but science is learning more and more about the causes and effects. However, armed with information, you do have the ability to maintain a higher quality of life for as long as possible during the progression of the disease.

At Helping Hands Respite Care our Adult Day Services (ADS) program can offer a level of consistency of care that can have a positive impact on not only the participant, but the loved ones bearing the brunt of the responsibilities of care. A regular schedule of stimulating activities and socialization, balanced nutrition, adequate hydration – all under a nurse’s supervision and well-trained care staff, can deliver positive results. Families report that their loved one comes home from the ADS program having experienced a stimulating day that results in a better appetite and better sleep —both beneficial for maintaining a quality of life.

Knowing when to seek care outside the home, or inside is so important. We recognize that all too often the direct family caregiver is reluctant to broach this subject with their loved one and will wait too long to get all of the benefits possible from a program like ADS. If you haven’t already, it may be time to ask your Doctor about an assessment or the Mini-mental exam. Being armed with information about the progression of Alzheimer’s disease will help. Here is a very short video that helps you understand the phases of the disease and how it acts on the brain. If you don’t watch the video right away, you can see our recap of the phases below the image. (Click on the image to watch 3 minute video)

Link to short video that demonstrates the signs of alzheimer's disease and the effect on the brain. picture of a brain.


Phases of Alzheimer’s Decline and how it affects the brain over average 8 to 10 years of the disease progression.
Here is a summary of the phases described in the video:

  • Ability to form new memories- short term,
  • Language processing- such as losing words,
  • Logical thought or ability to grasp concepts. Eg; clocks and calendars,
  • Emotions are heightened and sometimes difficult to control,
  • Senses are affected making it hard for brain to process. Eg; causing confusion or hallucinations,
  • Oldest and most precious memories are being lost,
  • Balance and coordination are affected,
  • Last stage the brain stops life functions like swallowing and breathing


Not every client who attends the ADS program has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Some have other forms of dementia or are fighting other diseases such as Parkinson’s. Helping Hands Respite Care has been operating an Adult Day program for well over 30 years. We are proud of our history and continue to look to the future for ways to continue to improve.
If you are interested in learning more about the ADS program for a loved one, PLEASE feel free to reach out to Alison Sarkozy our program supervisor to set up a no obligation exploratory visit.

Repetitive Phone Calling as Dementia Behavior

Senior with dementia displaying repetitive phone calling as dementia behavior

Adult Day Services (ADS) Program Supervisor, Alison Sarkozy shares another great article on the challenges of repetitive phone calling as dementia behavior. This may be effecting some of our senior clients and family who are learning to cope with the ever-changing and disconcerting behaviors related to dementia.

Dementia Behaviors: Repetitive Phone Calling

By Ava M. Stinnett

Whether your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, it’s important to know that confusion, memory loss, and difficulty performing everyday activities are common overlapping symptoms. A healthcare provider may use a simple three-phase model (mild/early, moderate/middle, and severe/late) to describe the progression of the disease. Although symptoms will vary for each person, learning more about how dementia unfolds over several years can guide you as you plan for a loved one’s care.

In the mild to moderate stage, symptoms may include loss of awareness of recent events, personality changes, confusion about surroundings, and repetition of particular actions or behaviors. For example, some people with dementia make phone calls to their loved ones over and over again—particularly in the middle of the night or early morning. This might occur because they forget that they have already called; it’s also possible that they’re feeling insecure, anxious, or even bored and need to be occupied. Still others with dementia call just to make sure someone answers the phone. Medical professionals sometimes call this act of going through the motions of familiar activities “perserveration” (Rosenzweig, 2017).

 On the Receiving End of Repetitive Phone Calling as Dementia Behavior

As a loved one on the receiving end of the phone calls, it can be frustrating or distressing—even more so when your elder calls your neighbors, other relatives, or even physicians when they don’t reach you after several unanswered calls. Additionally, the expense of long distance calls or overage of mobile phone minutes can become problematic. What steps can you take to alleviate this behavior?

First, talk with your loved one’s healthcare provider to determine whether medication needs to be adjusted or if another type of treatment for dementia is warranted. It might help to get a phone with a number recognition display so that you, other family members, and friends can decide whether or not to answer. Switching ringers off at night is another option. While you may feel guilty about not answering every call, it’s important to try to stop the repetitive calling—for you and for your loved one. Another option, depending on how far the disease has progressed, is to purchase a telephone that has no dial or buttons to place calls; the phone is for incoming calls only. In that case, however, you must first assess the situation to ensure that safety options are available in case of emergency.

If you can, create a pleasant diversion such as taking a walk, looking through a photo album, sorting and folding clothes, or listening to soothing music. Try to redirect by changing the focus from anxious behavior to a favorite pastime such as sanding wood, gardening, or providing a safe environment for cooking or baking. Once you can identify the emotion associated with the behavior (e.g., fear, anxiety, boredom, anger, loneliness), you can react to it instead of to the question or behavior. Taking time to express words of reassurance, understanding, and caring can do wonders to ease the challenges of being a caregiver.


Rosenzweig, A. (2017, May 26). Perseveration in Alzheimer’s and Other Dementia: Getting Stuck. Retrieved from

The Alzheimer’s Association. (2017). Repetition and Alzheimer’s. Retrieved from
The Care Support Services. (2012, January 8). Repetitive behaviors and the frustration they present to the dementia caregiver. Retrieved from

Reflections on Students as Caregivers

Adult in Home Supervisor Jeff Nunham interviewing a prospective student for a job as caregiver.

Is Caregiving a lower case job or a real JOB?

Taking a closer look at our caregiver population we are reflecting on students as caregivers.While we appreciate all of our caregiving staff, currently a large percentage of our caregivers are students who spend less than a year in service to our mission, it is interesting to weigh the benefits of a transient caregiver population. Because we are situated so close to Michigan State University, we find that there is a never-ending supply of students who find the work of caregiving to be a convenient job (note the lower case) which can work well around their class schedule. In the past year we have intentionally reached out to several of the colleges at MSU with the idea of cultivating more students in related fields of study such as Family Studies, Kinesiology, Social Work, and more. We search for those that are looking for a preview of sorts to their ultimate JOB.

Students as Caregivers – Lessons Learned

What we have learned is that it is important to value both those in search of a job or a JOB because the work that we offer can have personal significance in either case. “When I sit with prospective caregivers to discuss the feasibility and consequences of working for Helping Hands Respite Care, I am most mindful of the fact that these people that we are about to launch into our system have no idea of the tremendous impact they may have on the people they are about to serve,” shared Adult In-Home Supervisor Jeff Nunham. “I say to them: The person you serve and their disability will call you up to a larger capacity to help. There is a reciprocal relationship that evolves out of this service. You will experience moments of excruciating truth when the person you are serving will become a mirror to reveal your true self.”

There are some drawbacks to students as caregivers. By definition most are transient, and some even between semesters may be heading home to families in distant cities. We recognize this challenge and are searching for ways to mitigate the absences which might occur between semesters or the conflicts with major university life events such as the “big game” or exam periods.

Nunham frequently reports on the transformative nature of the caregiver work at Helping Hands Respite Care. Many students will come to this work as a means to an end ….a lower case job with hours flexibility that makes room for pursuing and/or completing chosen areas of study – not always within the human services field. “Some of my best days are the ones when I find that a caregiver is making a dramatic change in the course of the educational career path, all because of the things they have learned about themselves while being in service to a family in need of care. Now it is a real JOB!”
Aside from fulfilling our mission to provide quality respite care for families in need, one of the benefits we receive at Helping Hands Respite Care is knowing that we are providing an opportunity for meaningful and sometimes life-changing work for young people in our community.

Volunteer of the Year – Loretta Keaner

At a recent meeting of the Helping Hands Respite Care, our Volunteer of the Year, Loretta Keaner was acknowledged. Loretta started working as a volunteer in January of 2016. Her service to Helping Hands Respite Care has included a weekly commitment to the Adult Day Services program, a monthly commitment to Kate’s Memory Café, and some assistance with our annual family picnic and hosting of The Ability Experience riders from Pi Kappa Phi.

Volunteer of the Year, Loretta, serves the Adult Day Services Program

Alison Sarkozy describes Loretta as a true asset to the Adult Day program. “She is a real go-getter, she always tell it like it is and is not afraid to put our caregiver staff in their place, “shared Alison. “ And, I love it! Anything you ask her to do she will jump right in without hesitation. Loretta is always there for our member/participants providing encouragement and support, and also being a non-judgmental sounding board if the member is working through a tough moment.”

Volunteer of the Year Supports Kate’s Memory Cafe

Volunteer of the Year, Loretta Keaner helping out at Kate's Memory Cafe with some balloon volleyball.Katie Donovan spoke of Loretta as her right-hand at making the Memory Café a success. “If there is some lively musical entertainment Loretta will jump up and encourage our visitors to clap along or even dance,” said Katie. “At our last Memory Café we had a mother/daughter duo as entertainment. They spontaneously decided to sing the famous song “My Prayer” ….everyone was transfixed and moved by the beautiful rendition of the song. I am so glad I caught Loretta in the background of the video of the ladies singing ….at one point Loretta slipped into the kitchen to grab a Kleenex to wipe her tears away. That moment of vulnerability just warmed my heart.” Loretta has also provides a very personal gift of service to my Mom at the Memory Café. While Mom attends as my partner in care, she doesn’t see herself as needing any help or support. Loretta treats Mom as a co-volunteer and always make her feel needed and useful. As Mom continues to decline in her own journey with dementia, these moments of competence supplied by Loretta mean so much to me – she can offer Mom something that I simply can’t give as her caregiver and daughter – a simple acknowledgment as a friend.”

Volunteer of the Year Pitches in at Annual Family Picnic

The Annual Family Picnic and Welcoming Event for the 37 plus fraternity brothers from across the nation is an opportunity for more service from Loretta. Putting on the picnic event is a big effort and every volunteer makes it that much easier to give up a Sunday afternoon in July for this event.

We are so thankful that Loretta so generously shares her time and talent.
It was an easy choice to single out Loretta Keaner as our 2017 Volunteer of the Year!

MSU Grant Focus on Caregivers 

MSU logo represents MSU grant focus on caregivers


For the past six months Executive Director, John Stauffer, has been serving as a contributor to an MSU Grant Focus on Caregivers, an important alliance for Helping Hands Respite Care. Called the IMPART Alliance, the group was formed to provide critical and anecdotal information for a $500,000 MSU Research Grant process targeting “personal care attendants, or PCAs,” in our vernacular – caregivers. The grant came from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund in the category of Special Projects and Emerging Ideas Grants. Written by MSU professor Clare Luz in the Department of Family Medicine, the grant outlines a program called Integrated Model for Personal Assistant Research Training (IMPART).Clare Luz, author of MSU Grant Focus on Caregivers

Focus of  MSU Grant About Funding for Training and Service

Major topics being explored through this grant include:
– Creative Ways to Finance PCA Training and Workforce Development
– Exploring Diverse Sources of Funds to Pay for Training and Service for PCAs


Background for this initiative began 6 to 7 years ago with a federal grant that was offered in several states to focus on standardized training for PCAs. The acronym for the program was BTBQ which stood for Better Training, Better Quality. Contrary to most of the participating states in this program, in Michigan the BTBQ training never made it to the implementation phase before the funding ran out.
In Michigan, the reason for the evaporation of funding is because unlike the other participating states, Michigan is a state which does not license many of the care facilities/organizations and as such has no uniform training standards across the state.

In this generation of focus on the training, the IMPART alliance proposes going back to the other states to gather lessons learned from their implementation strategies to inform the research goals going forward in Michigan.

Across the country there is a consensus that there is no way forward in an environment where PCAs being paid at minimum wage creates an effective response for the ever-growing need for Personal Care Attendants. As the Executive Director of a program widely recognized as providing top-shelf training, John Stauffer’s role in the committee is to be a strong voice for the methods of training which are relevant to the target audience and appropriately reflects the reality of training for a new generation of caregivers which includes more and more college-age caregivers.

Legislators Recognize Value of Respite with Action – Consult with IMPART Committee of MSU Grant Focus on Caregivers

The IMPART alliance includes a sub-committee, which John Stauffer also serves on, which is focused on future implementation and needed wage increases across the board. And, currently this sub-committee includes several members who were responsible for input on some new state legislation targeted at immediately raising wages for PCA’s. The conversation began with legislators and lobbyists proposing a $2 an hour wage increase for these care attendants. The proposal was ultimately reduced to $.50 an hour, for budget reasons, and specifically targeted to those providing care for Michigan Community Mental Health (CMH) programs supporting respite care for families with members needing care due to cognitive/physical disabilities.

State Legislation Passed Will Positively Impact Some PCA/Caregivers

The $.50 increase for PCA’s caring for individuals supported by CMH went into effect October 1st. At Helping Hands Respite Care approximately 45% of those we care for draw some funds from CMH. Because Helping Hands Respite Care has a broad mission of caring for individuals from the very young to the oldest, the remainder of our programs may draw funds from Tri-County Office on Aging for our senior programs, the Veteran’s Administration and their benefits for respite care for spouses of those who have been in-service to our nation, and finally families privately paying or using long-term care insurance policies. “The diversity of our service and programs means that there will be some caregivers/PCA’s who will not see an increase in their pay,” commented Stauffer.

Minimum Wage Increase Coming January 2018

“However, there has been preparation for addressing a broader increase across more of our care staff with the coming of a $.35 increase in minimum wage in Michigan beginning January 1st. Current care staff should watch for a letter which outlines how these two increases – the CMH wage increase and the minimum wage increase will be reflected in their paychecks. It should be noted that the language of the CMH wage increase provides the $.50 per hour increase to go both to the direct care agency and the care providers. At Helping Hands Respite Care we prioritize the well-being of the families we serve by making sure that all of the increased funds go directly to caregivers,” concluded Stauffer.


The Gift of Pancakes

Executive Director John Stauffer talks about the Gift of Rotary Pancakes

By John Stauffer, Executive Director of Helping Hands Respite Care and East Lansing Rotarian

East Lansing Rotary Pancakes in the Park is one of the things I look forward to every year. As a person who has spent most of their life in the marketing arena, and loves people, Pancakes in the Park is just a comfortable and enjoyable event for me. This year was special because the efforts of the committee included several new elements to the Pancakes event. If I were to summarize the committee’s work it would be simple.

Less work, more money, great job!

It is because of more than money that I stand before you today. In an effort to honor the “Service to Community” piece of Rotary, the Pancakes in the Park committee suggested this year to give a portion of the proceeds to a couple of the non-profits that they have associated themselves with in the past.

Helping Hands Respite Care, a non-profit that I have the honor of being the director for, was the recipient of a $2,500 check from the proceeds of the pancake event. We were given the opportunity to sell tickets, advertise the event on our website, and push the event to our friends on Facebook, and have a presence at the actual event. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process. The committee invited me as the director of Helping Hands to be present at meetings prior to the event to share ideas and information as it pertained to advertising, promotion and the selling of tickets. It made the Pancakes event much more personal for me this year.

The Gift of Rotary Pancakes

Last week I walked in to the regular Rotary meeting and Amy (club treasurer) quietly handed me a check for $2,500, the commitment to Helping Hands that our club had made at the beginning of this process. The check was quietly folded and placed in my shirt pocket. It appeared uneventful, but it was anything but. I had a tear in my eye because of what that check represented. It was the culmination of a collaboration between the two organizations of which I am most proud to be a member.

This check represented the congruence of value and service between our two agencies – I believe everyone in this room is here because they see Rotary as a way to exponentially expand the things that we believe in and leverage the good work we want to see accomplished locally and globally. The check in my breast pocket last week was an acknowledgment from an agency I proudly serve, to an agency I proudly represent. An acknowledgment that you believe in the work we do.

Cathy Zell (president-elect) asked that I share a little about how our agency has or intends to use the funds received. What I say to you today is the fact that you entrusted the funds to our use without first requiring or directing what the use of the funds would be is so much more important than what we actually did do with those dollars. Thank you so much for your belief in Helping Hands, and for those of you who just have to know your funds are being utilized – they are being used to help us grow a new program at Helping Hands Respite Care where we use paid interns from MSU, students majoring in Kinesiology, Nursing, Family Studies, Social Work, Pre-Med and Psychology, to work directly in our programs and in the family’s homes of those we serve.

Helping to fund a program that will ultimately facilitate helping even more families who desperately need respite (a short break) from the intense responsibility of being fully present 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for their loved one with a disability or failing health. For me…that is the Gift of Pancakes this year!

Kathryn Green Named as Child In-Home Supervisor

Kethryn Green, new Child In-Home supervisor at Helping Hands Respite Care

Reviewing the reasons why Kathryn Green is a great candidate for a supervisor’s position, it became clear she was the best choice for Child In-Home Supervisor. In her 2+ years at Helping Hands Respite Care there has been no employee who has racked up more positive attention,  been named Employee of the Month numerous times, and rapidly advanced from caregiver, to team leader, to assistant supervisor, and now supervisor.

“When you see great talent found in Kathryn Green it is an easy choice to take advantage of the energy, willingness to learn and to grow,” shared Executive Director John Stauffer.

“I am committed to supporting our Child In-Home families in the best way possible while also helping our caregivers remain up to speed and accountable to their important responsibilities,” said Kathryn.

What happened to Nicole?

Some may be asking what happened to our previous Child In-Home Supervisor, Nicole Holbrook. The reason for her departure was precipitated by an escalating family situation. Like many families that we help, Nicole was called to provide regular care for an aging family member.

While her title and responsibilities to the organization may have changed, we are pleased to have Nicole available to our families specifically for the purposes of availing themselves of family counseling services.

BBT Program Move from Gier Center to Beekman Center

Program Move - BBT will be at the Beekman Center instead of the Gier Community Center

Announcing Program Move: The Breaking Barriers Today (BBT) program is moving from Gier Community Center back to the Beekman Center. Effective 9/1/17, the transition of the Breaking Barriers Today program will be complete. We are sad to lose access to such a wonderful facility at Gier. Unfortunately, we simply could not see the path towards growing the program to serve more of the families with an adult child aging-out of the school district sponsored programs.  Although the need is there, the perception of this program as competition rather than an alternate option conspired against getting the expected referrals to grow the program.

The bright side is that the proximity to the Beekman Center and Heartwood School students/families should yield more referrals into our modified Breaking Barriers Today program and the Respite House weekend respite program. Going forward the Breaking Barriers Today program will primarily be an after school program.

With new leadership (read about new supervisor) and enthusiasm for our re-defined BBT program we have great hopes for growth in this program.

The Ability Experience and Helping Hands Respite Care

Ability Experience bike riders lined up in front of Helping Hands for a reception line

On July 30th  The Ability Experience happened in East Lansing as 37 hot and sweaty young men converged on Helping Hands Respite Care for a special visit.  These men, all part of a national fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, competed to be selected to be part of what some might consider 50 plus days of torture.  They hoped to be chosen to be part of an amazing, life-changing journey, aptly called the Journey of Hope.  It is all part of the fraternity’s national charitable fund-raising organization The Ability Experience event where three teams of riders are assembled to participate in a cross-country fund-raising bike rides. There are three routes planned across country – a northern route, mid- of the country route, and the southern route. They all begin in major west coast cities and end in Washington DC.  Each man selected to participate is responsible for raising the funds to cover the cost of their participation in a national cross-country bike ride, to train in preparation for the ride, and to assist in fund-raising.

For the past three years, Helping Hands Respite Care has been one of the friendship visit stops of the Journey of Hope riders.  Friendship stops are planned for the riders so that they may meet and engage with people with disabilities served by a variety of organizations.  You see, the mission of The Ability Experience is to not only raise funds to be granted to nonprofits like Helping Hands, but also to create a generation of future leaders who will have a greater understanding, compassion, and connection with people with disabilities. Helping the riders understand that while the people they meet on their journey may have disabilities – they also have many abilities!

Hosting the Ability Experience riders has become an event that we look forward to each year.

The Ability Experience games include Giant  Jenga. Two riders and Bob Sr. and Jr. Matheson took a chance with the game.

The past two years we have taken the community picnic to the next level by planning fun, interactive games for the riders to participate in with some of our clients and family members.  This year our “Ability Games” included the popular water-balloon human bowling pins, giant jenga, an old-fashion hula-hoop competition, pool noodle javelin throwing, flying discs, and corn-hole bean bag toss.

Putting on this community picnic and games is an effort that is largely accomplished by the administrative team of Helping Hands Respite Care.  Leading the charge in planning, set-up, and even game creation is our leader and executive director, John Stauffer.  Also at work before, during and after were:  Office Administrator Janette Lauzon (plus her team of young men that came to help set-up and clean-up); Scheduler Rhonda Mliakoff who joined in the food prep and cooking duties along with Adult Day Services Nurse Jane Rogers; Adult In-Home Supervisor Jeff Nunham and his wife Karen focused on the grills, cooking, and keeping the food line supplied; Consultant Katie Donovan provided some shade as she stuffed her 20×10 foot tent in her little Chevy and convinced the East Lansing Rotary Club to lend us two other smaller tents; and ADS program Team Leader Jeff Gindlesberger showed up early to help with set-up and clean-up.

Volunteers for Ability Experience Community Picnic

Volunteers included Connie Tubbs who arrived early to help with food prep; Bill Bartilson once again came prepared to create music and public address system for us; and Board Member Jane Beaudoin stepped up to fill a critical need for the riders….the Beaudoins convinced their condo association to allow the riders to bunk at the community building and pool overnight. Once the guys arrived it was clear that there was not enough room so Jane and Gary Beaudoin opened their home for more of the riders.

We had clients join in the fun from our Adult Day Services program, Kate’s Memory Café regulars, our Child-In Home program, and Adult-In Home.  Some care-providers who were on-duty providing respite care made sure to come and join in along with their care partner.  Several Board Members and donors also arrived for the picnic and festivities.

While we put on this event with the skinniest of budgets, and tax our hard-working team to get it all done, we find it to be so richly rewarding in those little moments where we interact with the riders, or have a moment to enjoy the company of client/families/friends in a social setting. This is an event that pays dividends of the heart.  To all of those who lent a hand to make this event happen …we are so grateful!



Capacity Grant from Our Community Foundation

Our Community Foundation fundamentally changes Annual Grant-Making Process to include capacity grantLogo for Our Community Foundation. Helping Hands Respite Care a grateful recipient of this change.

In a dramatic shift towards helping local nonprofits to build capacity and make major impacts in their respective service areas, Our Community Foundation, formerly known as Capital Region Community Foundation, re-defined and rolled out a new grant process this spring.  Helping Hands Respite Care received one of many $1000 Assessment/Audit Grants to help local nonprofit organizations narrow their focus and determine whether they would make application for a capacity grant or an impact grant.

Helping Hands was given the opportunity for an assessment by an organization well-versed in nonprofit structure and challenges.  The result of the assessment included a recommendation for both Board Training and assistance with our next Five Year Strategic Planning Process.  That recommendation and proposal for service was rolled into a Capacity Grant.  Additionally, Our Community Foundation searched out local agencies ready for assistance on Fund Development and created a fast track to a training opportunity with the Benevon for Sustainable Fund Raising organization.  After filling out a pre-application, Helping Hands was invited to include Benevon Training and Support as part of the Capacity Grant.

Timing of the next available Benevon Training which was scheduled for mid-June in Dearborn, was tight, but once we got the grant approval for the training – work began in earnest to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.  Helping Hands was selected as one of five local nonprofits that demonstrated their readiness to take advantage of the capacity grant and the resources made available from Our Community Foundation.  “The hard work of the past six years is beginning to pay-off, shared Helping Hands leader John Stauffer. It is an honor to be perceived as at the tipping point of success by the community foundation.  The help comes at just the right time as we forecast no end in sight for the growing need for the respite services provided by our organization to the community covering Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties.”