Rockingham woman to start Alzheimer’s support group

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

When Curtis Benoist passed away on June 5 at the age of 83, family members were surprised at the sudden appearance of death, even though Benoist had been ill for some time.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Kateline Turner, 20, of Rockingham, is starting a caregiver support group for family members who help care for those afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Here, she reflects on her goals as he holds a photo of her grandpa, Curtis Benoist.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Kateline Turner, 20, of Rockingham, is starting a caregiver support group for family members who help care for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Here, she reflects on her goals as he holds a photo of her grandpa, Curtis Benoist.

Among the myriad of emotions was relief. That’s right, Kateline Turner and her mother, Sebrina Benoist experienced a single, solitary moment of relief. After all, caring for a loved one is a burden incomparable to most any other task. Only those who have experienced it can understand.

Kateline Turner

Kateline Turner

It’s with this emotion and passion that Turner, 20, of Rockingham, is coordinating a caregiver support group for individuals stricken with Alzheimer’s or dementia and their family members. The first meeting is scheduled for 6 pm. Aug. 6 at Richmond County Hospice Haven on U.S. Route 1 in Rockingham. There is no cost to attend the meetings.

“Me and my mother … she took care of him pretty much all her life,” said Turner, automatically minimizing her role in his care. “We’ve been living on his land since … my first year in kindergarten.”

Turner said she and her grandpa were very close as they lived beside each other on his Hamlet property.

“I was with him pretty much every day,” Turner said, “picking up pine cones and cleaning up his yard. That was his life, his yard. From sun up to sun down, every single day.”

Turner recalled during one of her grandpa’s final days, after he had returned from Hospice Haven, that “his mind was pretty much gone.”

Turner got the idea to put her grandpa in a wheelchair and take him outside to check on his favorite thing — his yard. While his coherency was questionable, Turner said he rattled off the names and dates of when he planted numerous flowers and plants.

“He could name ’em one by one,” she said, “what he plants, when he planted them. I just thought it was amazing.”

Submitted photo Kateline Turner, left, and her mother, Sebrina Benoist, visit with Curtis Benoist on April 23, less than two months before Curtis Benoist passed away.

Submitted photo
Kateline Turner, left, and her mother, Sebrina Benoist, visit with Curtis Benoist on April 23, less than two months before Curtis Benoist passed away.

At the same time, the toll providing care for him by her and her mother was devastating.

“It’s very emotional,” Turner said. “It’s pitiful seeing somebody like that and not knowing who they are and where they’re at. They turn into totally different people. I know to a point they go back to like they’re babies all over again.”

And personalities change. Sweet, gentle people can become mean with virtually no control over their demeanor.

“It’s really tough,” Turner said. “Especially for my mom. She secluded herself just so she could take care of my grandpa. She was there with him 24/7. She never got to go anywhere. It got bad. I started getting worried about her, for her health.”

Turner said she’s hopeful a support group will help caregivers build relationships and learn from others who understand what each person is going through while recognizing each caregiver’s situation is unique.

Turner said she also plans to bring in qualified guest speakers who can aid in developing new coping strategies and healthy lifestyle practices for both caregivers and those afflicted with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Turner said when she reached out for guidance and support, Hospice Haven was helpful but acknowledged there was not a caregiver support group in the area for Alzheimer’s or dementia. So Turner contacted the Alzheimer’s Association. The Western Carolina chapter of the nonprofit organization has helped Turner to form the local support group and help schedule guest speakers as needed.

Submitted photo Kateline Turner and her grandpa, Curtis Benoist, visit on April 23 at his home in Hamlet.

Submitted photo
Kateline Turner and her grandpa, Curtis Benoist, visit on April 23 at his home in Hamlet.

Turner said she also wants to organize a Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Richmond County. There are currently 15 walks in the Western Carolina chapter, with the closest being staged in Southern Pines and Asheboro.

For more information the Caregiver Support Group, contact Turner at 910-206-4268.

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  • Susan Cornelius

    This is wonderful. Kateline Turner has done what I have wanted to do for a long time. I think this will be wonderful for Richmond County. My Mother died with Alzheimer’s & now my wonderful Mother-in-law is battling the same. It is a horrible disease. This would be a wonderful place to be able to talk & learn from other people going through the same. I hope to be there for the 1st meeting.
    Thank you, Kateline.

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