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$30,000 Match Challenge under way

Donations to benefit The Dubin Center

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Dec 22, 2021

The Dubin Fund has just announced a $30,000 Match Challenge, which will help the center continue to be sustainable, as well as provide additional classes for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

“It’s coming from the Dubin Fund and it is from a family member who manages the fund,” said Lynne Thorp, Dubin Center executive director. “The fund is from Zelda’s family. She wanted to ensure after her husband passed there would be a center in Fort Myers.”

Individuals who would like to make a donation can do so by visiting dubincenter.com/match-donation.

The center also has an event coming up on Thursday, Jan. 27, at 5 p.m. at Bell Tower in Fort Myers. The 24th annual A Light to Remember is an opportunity for caregivers and families to come and celebrate, or remember a person who has been impacted by dementia. Thorp said there is typically a toast and some music.

“It is a nice event,” she said.

The event, which is hosted by Ellie Fox in memory of her husband, Ed Fox, of Fox Electronics, gives individuals an opportunity to make a donation to purchase a luminary, which can be done at www.dubincenter.com.

“We are hoping to light up the whole Bell Tower,” Thorp said, adding that a group of students from Florida Gulf Coast University will be helping with the luminaries.

The Dubin Center began 26 years ago, due to a generous donation by Zelda Dubin who wanted to ensure there would be a local resource center in Southwest Florida for dementia.

“We serve all of Southwest Florida,” Thorp said, adding that they get calls as far away as Immokalee and Port Charlotte. “The bulk of our clients are in Lee County.”

The United Way agency provides support groups, as well as caregiver classes, such as Savvy Caregiver and Dealing with Dementia.

“Everything we do for our caregivers is free,” she said.

Kate Hurrie, a caregiver from Cape Coral, said she became involved with the Dubin Center at the beginning of the year after one of her husband’s physicians suggested they might be able to provide some support, as well as learn more about the process of Alzheimers.

“The Dubin Center is really marvelous,” she said. “I encourage people not to hesitate to approach them. They will be very happy that they did.”

Hurrie said you feel less isolated when educated and you can reach out to others and identify what others are going through.

There are “always going to be some days better than others. In the end what really matters is that we are understanding, supportive and try to maintain as much harmony in the household as possible,” Hurrie said. “A central piece is identifying with others and also being able to say to myself I am lucky. It isn’t as overwhelming as I thought. Then you get educated as to some things to expect and plan for.”

Her husband, Brian, was diagnosed in 2015.

“It has helped me more about the progression from early to middle stages of the illness,” Hurrie said of the center. “You can learn to better interpret the behaviors you are seeing, engage and provide a safe and a happy environment by applying some of the tools that they suggested.”

Hurrie attends a support group, one in St. James City that covers challenges and solutions. With the pandemic, she also attended the support groups on Zoom, making it very accessible.

“A major portion of it is when you can identify with other concerns. It is not so isolating. It’s a much healthier thing for the caregiver, too,” she said.

Hurrie also took a six week Zoom course called Savvy Caregiving. She said the course provided a much clearer vision of a caregiver role and self-care to adequately help their dementing person.

“Sometimes you may feel reluctant to incorporate a home aid or companion as well,” Hurrie said. “The Savvy course is just fantastic. They teach you how to evaluate what is going on, how to put a plan into effect and help with suggestions all along the continuum of this disease.”

She said a number of them from the group have tried at home aid and it has been very successful.

“It allows the caregiver some time, even if it’s just to do a little house work, or get to the grocery store. Things you don’t realize how much time it takes,” Hurrie said. “In my situation I have a wonderful aid that comes in two mornings a week from 9 to 1. In some instances the person with dementia has other physical problems too. It has been a real help to have someone available to help me with him, physical therapy that needs to be done.”

The woman who comes and helps has become a great friend to Brian.

“It’s been worth it’s weight in gold,” she said.

In addition to the resources of the Dubin Center, Hurrie said Loving Hearts, a place located in Cape Coral, has a wonderful program of adult care where individuals can go to socialize with others. She said several of the women of her Dubin Center group are involved as are their spouses.

“We try to keep things evenly flowing and enhancing their life as much as you can,” Hurrie said. “I would suggest that too. He thinks it is terrific and a great experience.”

Three months ago Pine Island resident, Jeanne, who asked that her lastname not be used, was told by a friend of the Dubin Center, as her husband has dementia, but will not admit it. The center has helped her tremendously because she does not feel alone anymore.

“You meet other people and realize that they have the same problems you do,” she said, adding that sometimes you hear what has helped others and you try it too. “The center tries to explain how your significant other, the one you are taking care of, what is going through their mind, how they feel and are thinking. You have a better feel for that. I realize he has a different thought process and now I can try to relate to him more and act on what he does by understanding him more.”

Jeanne said even though her mother-in-law, who died years ago, had dementia, she had forgotten some of things about it, not having a deep knowledge because they were not the caregivers.

“Even though you visit you really don’t have the full knowledge of what is going on,” she said. “I realize there is a lot more than one kind of dementia.”

The Dubin Center has helped in providing an outlet for Jeanne, a place where she can discuss what is going on and finding ways to work around things by finding solutions.

“It has really helped. Helped me emotionally too. You have a problem, you can talk about it. You can talk about your feelings,” she said, as everything is confidential. “I have learned not to sweat the small stuff. He is trying to do things the way we always did it. I let him do it, whatever he is doing as long as it helps him and he doesn’t hurt him or anybody.”

Jeanne said she attends the support group at the Beacon of Hope, which is held twice a month.

“You make new friends, discuss things that you don’t want to discuss with anyone else. You can let your frustrations out without being judged. Pine Island is a really special island. It’s one big family. Everyone seems to really care and try to help everyone else,” she said.

The center is a resource for someone who has a parent, or spouse that was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and they do not know what to do next. Thorp said they get phone calls from individuals who share concern that their parent seems to be slipping.

“We can offer a free memory screening,” she said. “Or in later stages, we offer support groups, or help them with individual coaching to have the caregiver learn new tips and strategies on dealing with difficult behaviors.”

The center also refers clients out to other community resources, such as financial and planning resources, legal planning, potentially having home health involved, to making sure their loved one is safe. In addition, the center talks to clients about programs to make sure they have an emergency plan in place, as well as implementing ways to find their loved ones safely and quickly if they wander.

With an estimated 25,000 families caring for an individual living with dementia in Lee County alone, Thorp said they want to reach more caregivers.

“The bulk of which are living at home being taken care of by a family member. Many times they are elderly,” Thorp said.

There are currently a few in-person support groups still being held, one at the Center, 12468 Brantley Commons Court, Fort Myers, as well as Pine Island at the Beacon of Hope, 5090 Doug Taylor Circle, and Faith Presbyterian Church of Cape Coral, 4544 Coronado Pkwy.

“The new year we will be out anywhere from Lehigh Acres to Bonita Springs,” she said, adding that it can all be found on their website www.dubincenter.com. “We keep our website updated every day.”

In addition, Thorp said they also offer help for any caregiver who is challenged with new technology.

“We are finding most of the seniors have equipment, but need extra help. We will offer one-on-one help if they want to come here. Or help over the phone, if they want to use that technology too,” she said.