Gable speaks to Rotary about dementia caregiving

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Author Dorothy Gable presented her program to Guttenberg Rotarians at their weekly meeting on Feb. 20. From left are Rotarian Kathy Lake, John Hartmann, Carol Hartmann, Ralph Gable and Dorothy Gable. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia can be a very rewarding and challenging experience. Dorothy Gable of Dubuque authored a book in 2018 titled Dementia Caregiving from a Biblical Perspective: Your Guide for the Journey. 

Gable presented her program on dementia caregiving to the Guttenberg Rotary Club at its weekly meeting on Feb. 20 at the Stadium Bar and Grill. 

Dorothy and her husband, Ralph, are close friends of Carol and John Hartmann of Guttenberg. Ralph and John became acquainted through the Great River Amateur Radio Club. Dorothy holds degrees in biology and accounting. She earned a Bible Certificate and has served 10 years in the mission field with her husband in northern Manitoba, Canada.

Edith's story

Dorothy began her caregiving journey in 2006. She shared, "My mother Edith came to live with us after my father died unexpectedly. I did not know she had dementia. I was perplexed and concerned seeing her cognitive difficulties. I was unsure of the best way to help her. I had many unanswered questions. After her death in 2014, I began to read, study and write to find the answers for myself and other caregivers."

Gable's mother was a highly-educated career woman. She noted, "My mother was a registered dietitian for the state of New York and a hospital auditor. She was a very intelligent, independent woman. She should not have been doing so poorly." 

Edith's children noticed she was experiencing difficulties. "My sisters and I could see mom could not live on her own after our father passed away. My husband and I were empty-nesters so we invited her to come and live with us." 

After Edith moved in with the Gables, they became concerned she was not eating lunch and were afraid she would fall while they were at work. Gable said, "At that time we decided she needed more care. There was one incident in particular that indicated she could not be left alone. She needed to go to the bank to get something done. It was a pretty simple task. When she returned home she could only tell me that she went to the bank, but she couldn't tell me what she had done." 

A family vacation prompted the answer. She explained, "We went on a scuba diving trip, and mom received respite care at an assisted living facility. When we returned, she was so happy and wanted to introduce us to all her friends. She decided to move there." 

She described, "Dementia is a symptom caused by many different diseases. We were frustrated by the things my mother could and couldn't do. She was struggling with her e-mail and having trouble finding her words. A prior doctor had told my mother she did not have Alzheimer's, so we thought this meant she did not have dementia. "

Inspired to share

"We were living in Madison, Wis., when my mother passed away. My husband found a job in Dubuque and I was struggling to find a job. I prayed for guidance and the Lord directed me to take time off and author a book that would help other families that were affected by dementia. We also had other relatives that had the disease." She went on to say, "I found a lot of inspiration for caring for a loved one in the Bible. The single most important thing you can do for someone who is suffering from dementia is to provide loving, nurturing, compassionate care." 

"It is important to note that each diagnosis is different. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. Supportive care needs to be tailor-made for each individual," she said. "For instance, my mother could not remember to wear Depends. Instead of trying to explain the need for the specialized brief we simply removed her undergarments from the drawer and replaced them with the absorbent underclothes."

Gable stressed, "Joining a support group is very beneficial. It is important to share stories and information with other caregivers living with the disease." 

"As the disease progressed my mother would frequently request to go home. It was not feasible for us to care for her at home, but I could take her for a car ride. We would drive around town and through old neighborhoods. It was like a trip down memory lane. She quickly forgot she wanted to go home. When she was no longer able to get in a vehicle we would walk around the facility to ease her anxiety," she shared. 

"As a caregiver it is important to treasure what you have. Don't worry about what is up ahead. Address the problem when it arises. Don't promise loved ones you will take care of them at home. It may not be a reality. Tell them you will always make sure they have everything they need," she said. 

Gable counted her blessings, "My three sisters and I had grown apart, but we all came together to help our mother." 

She concluded, "Do your homework. There are a lot more possibilities today than there were in the past. Memory care units are excellent for wanderers but they are not for every individual. Some patients are better placed with high-functioning elderly patients that they can engage in conversation with. It is your job to be an advocate for your loved one. Each case is different and safety is very important." 

Dementia Caregiving from a Biblical Perspective: Your Guide for the Journey, is available online at

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