Mancini sets up Alzheimer's fund in parents' memory




Skip Mancini has firsthand knowledge about the effects of Alzheimer's disease, times two.

"My dad had it for a long time, and so did my mom, for a short time," Mancini said.

Mancini's father, R.F. Lee, began exhibiting warning signs of the disease in the mid 90's, eventually resulting in Mancini's retirement as the Garden City Community College drama instructor, so that she could help care for him.

"One of the hardest days of my life was the day that I had to take my dad's car keys away — the names he called me, and the anger he showed me — but it had to be done," Mancini said. Lee died in 2000 and Mancini's mother, Lorene "Shorn" Lee, suffered a more mild form of dementia from about 2008 to 2009, when she died of congestive heart failure.

To help others facing the disease, and honor the memory of her parents, Mancini recently developed the Lee Fund, which will provide various programs and services to southwest Kansas.

"I had wanted to do something in memory of my parents and so this is the way it worked out," Mancini said.

In October 2012, Mancini announced she was in the process of setting up a fund to bring health care professionals and others familiar with Alzheimer's disease to southwest Kansas to provide continuing education and support to both Alzheimer's sufferers and their loved ones.

Since then, Mancini and Jan Evans, outreach coordinator for the Central and Western Kansas Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, have begun planning in-services and presentations for the region. The fund is going to be used to fund the presentations so that the expense doesn't affect hospital, nursing home or other facilities' budgets.

"So it kind of opens doors so that they realize there is help out there; there are people who know how to do this and can teach other people how to do this," Mancini said.

She said caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia can be very difficult on family members, particularly those providing primary care.

"You can burn out and you can get — I speak from experience on this — you can get sick yourself, if you're not careful, by depression, fatigue, anxiety. None of these things are good for your body or your mind and you can get to the point of, 'What am I going to do?' and 'How am I going to get through this?' So this is something that's really important," she said.

In addition to training health care professionals about the disease, Evans also holds presentations for family members who are acting as caregivers and said one of the main things she shares with people is to go where their loved one is.

"That's where we want to give hope — that wherever that person is in the disease, they can't help that they have the disease, so we have to go to them and help improve their quality of life, where they are at, which in the long run, will help the caregiver, also," Evans said.

The Lee Fund will serve 19 counties in southwest Kansas, including Clark, Meade, Stevens, Morton, Stanton, Grant, Haskell, Gray, Ford, Hodgeman, Finney, Kearny, Hamilton, Greeley, Wichita, Scott, Lane, Seward and Ness counties.

Mancini said she sees the fund as a sort of legacy to her parents, who were always helping people themselves. Her father owned Sublette Drug and while he wasn't a doctor, as a druggist/pharmacist, he helped a lot of customers with their aches and pains.

"Daddy, he gave out lots of advice and help in a lot of areas and so I think it's really neat that their names are associated with continuing to provide information about health and living better," Mancini said.

Evans gave a presentation at Homestead Assisted Living in Garden City last week and is planning a series of presentations to be held in the area June, July and August.

The next program she is presenting, "Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia and Driving," is taking place from noon to 1:15 p.m. Thursday in Dodge City at 1509 Ave. P. The event is free and open to the public, who can bring their own brown bag lunches, if desired. For more information about that event, contact Evans at (316) 267-7333 or Judy Fraley-Hinnergardt at (620) 225-4309.

Following that program is another event open to the public, "Knowing the 10 Warning Signs," taking place at 7 p.m. July 16 at the Dighton Joy Center, 144 N. First St., Dighton. The third event in the series will be an all-day training event called, "Foundations Training on Alzheimer's," taking place at the Satanta Hospital on Aug. 7.

For more information about the latter two events, contact Evans at (316) 267-7333.

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