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SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2006
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Tragic story part of Alzheimer’s conference

By Paul Huggins
DAILY Staff Writer

phuggins@decaturdaily.com · 340-2395

Sheakeeta Lahnala was in tears clutching a stranger's mailbox.

She was lost three miles from home and couldn't remember her name.

Hours later, her son, Don Lahnala, came home and saw three numbers on his caller ID. The first was from Decatur General Hospital, the second from Roselawn Funeral Home and the third from his parents' house.

The news was almost more than the Birmingham resident and 28-year law enforcement officer could bear.

His mother was OK but in the emergency room. His father, Lester, had died, and his body had been decomposing for three days in his parents' home before being discovered.

"I can remember crying 'No!' as I fell to my knees, crying like I never had before," he said of that morning last July.

A half-hour later, he composed himself and drove to Decatur with his wife to learn the rest of the story.

It's a story Lahnala will share at the fourth annual Lucy and John Caddell Alzheimer's Conference on March 10 at the Holiday Inn. His presentation will be one of six special programs for the daylong event, with topics ranging from treatment of dementia to ways caregivers can help protect people with dementia.

"I don't want other people to go through what I went through," Lahnala said, explaining why he will share his story.

He wants to bring more awareness to how tragic the disease can be and shed light on improvements that can help children of dementia sufferers better protect their parents. He particularly wants the state to devise a photo database of everyone diagnosed with dementia to aid police and hospitals when they find people like his mother.

The conference, sponsored by the Mental Health Association in Morgan County and Decatur General West Behavioral Medicine Center, is dedicated to the memory of Lucy and John Caddell.

Mrs. Caddell had Alzheimer's for 17 years until she died in 2002. Her husband, who provided around-the-clock care for her, was an MHA supporter in its efforts to aid the victims of Alzheimer's and their caregivers. Caddell died Feb. 7.

Other speakers include Dr. Richard Powers, who oversees the Dementia Education and Training Program for Alabama, and Meredith Rowe, an associate professor in the College of Nursing at The University of Florida. Rowe developed CareWatch, a system that assists caregivers of people with dementia and parents of autistic children.

Topics include:

  • Current research on dementia.
  • Dementias other than Alzheimer's disease.
  • Prevention and treatment of dementia.
  • The problem of wandering and successful search techniques.
  • Reasons for neuropsychological assessment.
  • The new AlaSafe.gov Web site registry for Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers.

    The early registration cost is $35 for individuals and $45 for professionals who can use the event as credit for continuing education. After March 7, the cost goes up $10.

    For more information, call MHA at 353-1160.

    Subscribe for only 33¢ a day!

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