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Fathers' Day More Than a Time For Gifts - Courtesy Edmond Sun

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

When visiting dad on Father’s Day, you may want to evaluate more than his golf swing; you should consider his mood.

Charlotte Carey, an administrator at Synergy HomeCare, which has an office in Edmond at 13720 N. Bryant Ave., said many families spending time with dad may find he is just not himself. His speech may be slower, he may not be eating as well and he could be sleeping a little too much.

The question is: Is dad depressed or perhaps showing signs of dementia? Carey said Synergy is using Father’s Day this year as an opportunity to raise awareness about the difference between depression and dementia.

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest, according to the Mayo Clinic. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn’t worth living.

Carey said as they age, men may become depressed because they cannot do what they used to be able to do. Losses in later stages of life might include the death of a spouse, no longer being able to drive or not being able to perform physical labor like yardwork.

More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply “snap out” of. Depression may require long-term treatment. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or both. Other treatments also may help.

Dementia isn’t a specific disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. Dementia is a group of symptoms affecting thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning.

Memory loss generally occurs in dementia. However, memory loss alone doesn’t mean you have dementia. Dementia indicates problems with at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and impaired judgment or language, and the inability to perform some daily activities such as paying bills or becoming lost driving.

Dementia can make you confused and unable to remember people and names. You also may experience changes in personality and social behavior. However, some causes of dementia are treatable and even reversible.



EXPERIENCES SHARED

When he was 18 years old, James Cargo joined the National Guard. A year later, he joined the Air Force and served two four-year terms as an administrative specialist, stationed at places including Columbus, Ohio, Greenland, Tinker Air Force Base and Vance Air Force Base where he logged pilot flight hours among other things.

James and his wife Jessica have parented a large blended family. They live near Edmond and enjoy city offerings including the Edmond Senior Center and Mitch Park, where the center is located.

A few years ago, James began exhibiting symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s. It is a brain disease, a type of dementia that causes a a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, symptoms include memory loss that disrupts daily life, challenges in planning or solving problems, difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or leisure, confusion with time or place, trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships and misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.

Jessica, who had experience as a practical nurse, said she could see the symptoms before an official diagnoses was made a few months ago. Jessica works hard at being a good caregiver for her husband, and receives support from Synergy. A couple of times a week someone comes and takes him to places like Mitch Park.

They’ve been upfront about James’ Alzheimer’s, but having someone she loves enduring it is not easy, Jessica said.

“I’m doing what I can to keep him with me as long as I can,” she said.

They have a rich life together, strengthened by their belief in God and reading the Bible, Jessica said. And James has been a wonderful father to their children who see what a sound marriage they have, she said.

“He’s very close to my children,” she said.

Wanda Perez, who lives in north Oklahoma City, is a full-time caregiver for her father Efraim Marti-Vega, 86, and her mother Carmen Reyes, 78. Her family came from Puerto Rico, and Marti-Vega served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

A couple of years ago, Perez quit her job as a day care teacher to become a caregiver. Her father and mother live with her. Marti-Vega has debilitating arthritis, which has made him wheelchair bound. And his memory has faded. Reyes has dementia.

The strain of being a full-time caregiver was palpable in Perez’ voice as she talked about the challenges and the assistance she has received from Synergy. So was her pride related to her father.

“He’s still a wonderful father,” Perez said. “He often showed his love. He worked hard for us. He was perfect for us.”  

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared the third Sunday in June to be Father’s Day, time set aside for honoring patriarchs. The idea is attributed to Sonora Dodd, who was raised by her father after her mother’s death during childhood.

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