The CARE Foundation in VisaliaMay 23, 2017 11:00AM ● By Kendra Kaiserman
Story by Kendra Kaiserman
A loved one is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Who do you turn to? “I am the go-to guy when something like this happens,” says Steve Nelsen, who is not only chief executive officer of the CARE Foundation, but has gone through the process of a loved one being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. His mom had a massive stroke and was paralyzed completely on her left swhat is called vascular Alzheimer’s, which is caused by mini strokes that cut off blood supply to the brain. Nelsen and his family’s journey lasted approximately two years. His former mother-in-law passed away from cancer and Alzheimer’s. “I’m pretty passionate about it,” Nelsen says.
Nelsen started the CARE Foundation about two years ago, and its purpose is educating and helping “folks in the middle of a journey with Alzheimer’s or someone who just got diagnosed,” Nelsen says. “I come alongside people in their journey, counsel with them, help them understand. I will take on a role of advocacy to make sure a patient is taken care of. I kind of take that pressure off or help guide them to get the assistance they need.”
CARE stands for compassion, Alzheimer’s, respect and education. Nelsen explains, Compassion is key because “even though they don’t recognize you, the person is still inside, and you need to learn how to communicate with them.” He suggests that people go with the flow of the conversation they are having with their loved one, and not to correct a person with Alzheimer’s.
Respect is also part of the foundation’s title, because the patients “are human beings. They are people. They have different needs,” Nelsen explains. And finally, CARE includes education, which means making plenty of information available. “I try to keep it light, but I try to educate them on what to do,” says Nelsen. He does not give out any legal or medical information, but has numerous sources of trustworthy information about Alzheimer’s, and he writes a monthly column for the Visalia Times-Delta.
One of Nelsen’s tips on connecting with people with Alzheimer’s is making them a photo album and letting them turn the pages. He also discusses caregiving with patients and their families “so that they become part of the solution,” Nelsen says.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed. The hope in it is that “they maintain their cognitive capabilities longer,” says Nelsen.
And although his work is difficult, he describes it as immeasurably rewarding. “I’m not looking for the pat on the back. At the very end, I’m always the one that is blessed because they touch my heart, so that’s why I do it,” Nelsen says.
CARE Foundation • 121 E. Main Street, #302, Visalia
(559) 429-4828 • www.alz-care.org
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