Free dementia caregiver seminar offered in Geneseo

Staff Writer
Geneseo Republic
Marilyn Woelke, left, looks through a picture book with Linda Gilman, also known as ‘Miss Lily,’ in one of the skits the two women present in programs for caregivers of individuals with 
dementia or Alzheimer’s.

The more you know about dementia, the more you can help.

Marilyn Woelke, of Bettendorf, Iowa, formerly of Geneseo, wants to have as many people as possible educated about dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease.

Woelke and Linda Gilman, of Bettendorf, also known as “Miss Lily,” will present a free seminar from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 8, in the Dedrick Room at the Geneseo Community Center, 541 East North St.

The program is designed for family caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s/dementia.

According to Woelke, dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease, is a growing issue in the United States.

“I believe everyone knows of someone, whether a relative, friend or acquaintance who has it. Yet, these people are often avoided by others and as a result isolate themselves and their caregivers from friends and family,” she observed.

Woelke said individuals with memory impairment problems need socialization and activities.

“It is important for people to learn how to relate to and talk with them. Our seminars teach people how to achieve this goal,” she said.

Woelke has a master’s degree in gerontology and worked for Alternatives for the Older Adult, (now called Alternatives) in Moline, for 14 years. It was during that time that she also became a licensed social worker and certified

dementia specialist.

In 2000, Alternatives for Older the Adult organization began a Caregiver Support Program with Woelke as director.

“One of my associates was asked to speak to a group on dementia and she asked for my assistance,” Woelke said. “In looking over her program outline, I suggested we do some role playing. It’s easy to say to a dementia caregiver to not argue, contradict or correct a dementia victim, but how does one actually do this?”

The role playing skits were well received at the presentation.

“Linda Gilman, my co-speaker, eventually became ‘Miss Lily’ and we now have six different programs using her in different role playing scenes.”

Miss Lily represents an 85-year-old woman with dementia.

The type of dementia, Alzheimer’s or Lewy Body Dementia, and how severe the dementia is depends on what Woelke is speaking about at the time.

“Our material comes from various seminars as well as several resources including author Jolene Brackey who wrote ‘Creating Moments of Joy: A Journal for Caregivers,’” Woelke said.

While working for Alternatives, Woelke started and led several support groups and currently leads the Geneseo Alzheimer’s Support Group and a Lewy Body Dementia Group in Bettendorf.

“These groups of family caregivers are where I have probably learned the most about dementia,” she said. “My own personal experience was with my husband’s mother who suffered with vascular dementia.”

For three years, Woelke and her late husband, George, cared for his mother, the late Evelyn, who was unable to speak more than three for four words and no memory of how to do things.

“With help from Alternatives, we obtained homemaker service through the Henry County Health Department, and my mother–in-law attended Intouch Adult Day Services which was in Atkinson at that time. It was during those years that I really learned about the stress of caring for someone with dementia.”

That led her to educating herself more about providing help for caregivers.

Woelke and “Miss Lily” have presented programs throughout Illinois and eastern Iowa.

“We are willing to speak to almost any audience that wants to learn about memory problems including the various dementias and Alzheimer’s disease,” she said. “We have often presented for church groups and other community organizations, especially on how to talk with someone with dementia.”

For information about the seminar, contact Woelke at (309) 781-6462.