By Bejay Browne
CYPRUS, along with the rest of the world will mark Alzheimer’s day tomorrow, and according to research, someone develops the disease every 68 seconds, and numbers are steadily increasing, causing devastating effects on patients and their carers.
Paphos has the largest concentration of British ex pats on the island, many of them elderly or advancing in years. Current or future health care and support are real issues which are affecting hundreds of families living in the area.
Mary Jones’ husband John was diagnosed with Alzheimer’ five years ago, after living in Cyprus for over a decade. Said that her husband has become a shell of his former self and said the effects the disease are heartbreaking.
Mary said that her husband’s behaviour often leaves her frustrated and angry, but she has had to learn to control her emotions and walk away.
“He can lash out at me and is very strong, I can’t cope for much longer and think I will have to put him into residential care which is something I never wanted to do. I’m at breaking point and I feel guilty, but this man isn’t my John and I know he would be crushed if he was aware of how he is treating me.”
Shirley Carter’s husband Barry is suffering with Alzheimer’s and is currently receiving residential care at a private facility in Limassol after she was unable to cope with looking after him.
“He got to the stage where he was walking and pacing all day and all night and had became increasingly aggressive,” she said.
She finds comfort in meeting with a group of other people and carers who are also coping with loved ones suffering with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“We are called ‘Caring Friends’ and we meet at the Phoenix club in Paphos, it’s a great help to have people to talk too.”
Chrystalla Themistokleous is the president of the Paphos branch of the Cyprus Alzheimer’s association, as well as acting matron at Paphos general hospital.
She said that along with an assistant nurse who provides homecare nursing and advice to carers, the charity can also supply wheelchairs, walking aids and bedpans. They have also purchased specialized beds and mattresses and have an oxygen machine for patients which need it.
“Our homecare nurse can advise on how to help a patient exercise, ensuring they get enough nutrition and liquids, how to wash them and so on.”
She pointed out that many of their patients are bedridden as most are at the fifth stage of the disease, which according to Themistokleous is the final stage of Alzheimer’s and leaves most ‘paralysed.’
“They are unable to walk, talk, more their limbs or head, at this stage they need a lot of nursing care.”
The charity president understands the complexities facing many families coping with Alzheimer’s as her own mother is in the advanced stage of the disease. She has remained at home, where Themistokleous has helped to look after her for the last 15 years.
“I understand how difficult it can be, but I believe as much love as a patient needs, if you give it, they will live longer.”
Paphos resident Georgina Spink is a fundraiser for the Cyprus Alzheimer’s association and initially became involved with the charity a number of years ago. Spink and late husband David moved to Cyprus in 1994, and during his year long stint as master of the Masons, the couple chose the charity as a beneficiary for donations. She now helps with ongoing fundraising.
“There is not a lot of money granted from the Cyprus government and most people I come across know someone with Alzheimer’s. Help is here if it’s needed, although I think there are far more available funds to look after patients in the UK.”
Sonia Royer has run a self help group affiliated with the Alzheimer’s association in Paphos for the last ten years.
She said: “I act as a facilitator. Many of the patients carers come along and also some of the Alzheimer’s sufferers. It can be very difficult for them both. If they have just been told that a loved one has Alzheimer’s, it’s a massive shock; they have no idea of where to start and what to do.”
Royer says the self help group consists of people who face or have faced similar problems. “The group can help because they have all been through it.”
Royer says they are able to recommend specialists and doctors and in the past, a lawyer spoke to the group about relevant legal matters, such as making a will and power of attorney.
She said that the self help group was just a small part of the charity as a whole, but an important one. Royer pointed out that many ex pats here did not have family members living in Cyprus who they can rely on for support, unlike most Cypriots.
“We are each others family and we can step in to help,” she said. “This is all about friendship.”
The facilitator said that the charity was desperate for volunteers with a caring nature, especially to help give careers a few hours respite or to allow them to do practical tasks such as shopping.
“Volunteers are needed to keep patients busy for a couple of hours, depending on the individual, by reading, music and talking.”
The Cyprus Alzheimer’s Association is run by donations and ongoing fundraising events and raffles.
The Paphos branch of the Alzheimer’s Association is holding a table top sale at the Fantasia Social club in Paphos on October 4 in support of the charity. Entrance is €5 (including tea or coffee and cake) and an array of goods will be on offer, including clothes, cards, a white elephant stall and a raffle. All of the proceeds will go to the Paphos Alzheimer’s Association.
President of the Paphos Alzheimer’s Association- Chrystalla Themistokleous- 99 430 187
Sonia Royer- Alzheimer’s self help group first Wednesday of the month at 10am at the Latin Parish hall in Paphos. For further information 26 621530.
‘Caring Friends’- Unofficial self help group-Every third Wednesday at the Phoenix club in Paphos.
Table top sale on Saturday 4th October 2014 from 10am – 2pm at Fantasia Social Club: Georgina: 99385234