Chandler resident Helen Visokey’s days are consumed with her husband’s needs — doling out pills, helping him get dressed, preparing and cutting his food, helping him shave, and making sure he reads the newspaper and exercises every day.
Her intention is to keep his mind and body active and stimulated. They read together, walk through malls, engage in social conversation whenever possible, play games and go to physical therapy.
Visokey’s husband has both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Eugene Visokey, 71, was a man who did everything himself, from starting his own computer business to tending his own yard.
Now, because of dementia brought on by both diseases as well as a host of physical symptoms including tremors, rigidity and coordination problems, he needs a caregiver.
Overwhelmed, Helen Visokey started attending local support groups. But when she couldn’t find one that provided enough resources or information, she knew she had to do something.
"I wanted to get everything out there that was available to help — and not just talk about it,’’ she said.
"There’s a lot of research. You just have to find it.’’
She found a sponsor, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Research Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, and together they formed a neurological support group whose goals are to educate, provide resources, comfort and give hope. The group meets once a month at the Solera Del Webb Retirement Community in Chandler, and hosts a variety of guest speakers who discuss everything from the latest research to tips on making caregivers’ lives easier.
In Arizona, the diagnosed cases of dementia-related diseases including both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s number roughly 100,000, although there are probably many more, said Felipe Jacome, regional director of the Desert Southwest Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
"One out of 10 people over the age of 65 and nearly half of everyone over 85 will develop Alzheimer’s,’’ Jacome said.
"They typically live eight to 20 years (with the condition), leaving family caretakers exhausted. That’s why support groups are so important.’’
One thing Helen Visokey brings to her meetings is a positive attitude. She refuses to let life get her down and has adopted a motto for the group:
"Life may not be the party we had hoped for, but while we’re here, we might as well dance.’’
Find out more
To learn more about the neurological support group, call Helen Visokey at (480) 451-1714 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.