• 70°

Hayes helps others fight Alzheimer battle

By BY LYDIA GRIMES – Features Reporter
November is Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month. This week's profile is someone who has had plenty of experience with Alzheimer's, both personally and as a nurse.
Dement Hayes watched her husband, Vernon Neal Hayes, suffer through 10 years of the disease. After his death, she became determined to help others that were in the same position that she had been through.
Most people, when asked, will say that what they fear the most about growing older is that they might be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Many illnesses kill much quicker, but the slow death that comes with Alzheimer's destroys the things that make a person who they are - their memory, mind and personality. The effects on the relatives and friends caring for the patient are in some ways even worse. They have to watch and care for the patient knowing the end result will be a person who neither recognizes them nor is able to care for themselves until death takes them.
There are four million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer's disease and if no cure if found by the middle of the century, that number will rise to 14 million. Doctors continue to make some advances, sometimes delaying some of the effects and treating some of the symptoms, but so far none of this adds up to a cure.
The U.S. Congress designated November as National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month in order to raise the public awareness to the terrible toll taken on individuals and society. Support groups forming in many communities provide caregivers with information on treatment and to answer questions they may have.
As the patient's disease advances, brain cells die and can not be replaced. Information stored on the cells is permanently erased.
After the death of her husband, Hayes decided that she could help others who were in the same position that she had been in. She got involved with the Alzheimer's Caregivers Support Group in 1990 and brought it to the attention of others. She reorganized the program and set out to get as much information as she could to other caregivers to help them through their difficult times.
The Alzheimer's support group meets the first Monday of each month to talk about things related to the patient. It is part of the Area Agency on Aging with the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission. It works with The Care Team Network to help caregivers and patients. Volunteers and church groups make themselves available to help with caregiving needs such as sitting with the patient or shopping.
Hayes was born in Arkansas, grew up in Louisiana and went to school at Elm Grove High School. She attended nursing school at what was then, North Louisiana School of Nursing. Her first job was back in Arkansas and she married Vernon Hayes there in 1941. He was in the pulp wood business so they made several moves before coming to Brewton in 1957. Along the way they became the parents of three daughters. They were very active in church work and she was very active in girl scout work. In fact she helped to organize the Deep South Girl Scout Council.
Hayes did go back to nursing in 1962 when she went to work at D.W. McMillan Hospital as a staff nurse. She stayed on staff there until about 1983 when she left to care for her husband.
Hayes keeps herself very involved to this day. At the young age of 84, she is still active. She is a member of First Baptist Church, the Civic League, Meadowwood Garden Club, Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County, Care Team Network and the Escambia County Historical Society. She is on the board of directors with the Red Cross and has worked with them in their blood pressure screening for a number of years. Every Friday morning, she sets her table up at BankTrust and is available to take anyone's blood pressure.
She doesn't have too much free time, but she does enjoy gardening and collects salt and pepper shakers and pitchers.
She inherited her collection of all kinds of salt and pepper shakers from her mother and she has continued to add to them over the years. Her pitchers range in size from very, very small to regular size.
Hayes goes about her chores of trying to help others without much fanfare. Most people would do well to follow her example.
For anyone who is interested in helping Alzheimer's Foundation of the South, they are planning a "Walk to Remember" to be held this Saturday at 9 a.m. in Mobile at the University of South Alabama Health Services Building. The walkers are asked to solicit donations and those who have a minimum contribution of $50 will receive a T-shirt and be eligible for prizes.