Alzheimer’s disease hits home for Blossman’s small engines director

July 15, 2016 By    
Photo credit: _DJ_ via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: _DJ_ via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Do you know someone with Alzheimer’s disease?

Alex Catchings does. His 81-year-old grandfather has been battling the effects of this devastating neurological disease for the past 15 years.

Catchings, who heads the Alliance Small Engines division of Blossman Gas, hasn’t sat idle through these difficult years, either. He lived with his grandfather for four years, serving as his primary caregiver, and now lives “down the road” from him in Toledo, Ohio.

So if anyone knows how Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, can affect someone, it’s the 28-year-old Catchings.

Propane autogas engines are certainly a passion of Catchings, as he spends a lot of time helping to grow this market. But he also devotes much of his time to Alzheimer’s disease awareness. In fact, he is grateful Blossman Gas has allowed for him to stay in Ohio and care for his grandfather.

Catchings has been involved in a local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, serving as board secretary. He also serves on several committees, covering advocacy, governance and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s initiative. In addition to these efforts, Catchings is helping to launch a separate organization called AlzCares (Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Services of Northwest Ohio). One of its goals is to provide respite services for the caregiver and the person with the disease.

“It’s like a giant adult day care that caters to people with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” Catchings explains. “Just because they lost a lot of their cognitive mind, if I’m used to working 40 years 9 to 5, my body still thinks I should be doing something 9 to 5. How do you provide an activity or stimulation that they can understand and [also] alleviate the family to get done simple things,” like cleaning the house, paying bills or mowing the lawn?

Moving in

After Catchings’ grandmother died, he moved in with his grandfather, who had been experiencing memory issues.

Soon Catchings discovered the impacts of a complicated disease – the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, striking most of its victims at age 65 or older, the association adds.

Catchings says he communicated a custom reality for his grandfather, a former farmer, based on the 1950s and 1960s “because that’s where his mind went.” He labeled cabinets so his grandfather would recognize their contents, and he even bought a German shepherd trained in search and rescue in the event his grandfather wandered from the house.

“It’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I like to think I’ve done some challenging things,” Catchings says of his experience as a caregiver. “The analogy I usually give is it’s like taking care of an adult child.”

Catchings doesn’t shy from sharing his story, and he doesn’t want the propane industry to remain silent about the disease, either. He wants everyone, especially in this aging industry, to be more aware and open about it.

He’s contacted people within the industry who have been affected by the disease because he knows the importance of a support system. Sometimes it’s simply to check in and ask, “How’s life going? Do you need to talk to anyone, or do you need any support or resources?”

“A lot of times, people like to hide this disease,” he says. “There’s an embarrassment about it, a hush-hush. There’s a lot of local resources throughout the Alzheimer’s Association that are available. Our tax money is paying for it, but people don’t know about it.”

Catchings wants to do his part and continue to serve as a resource for those in the propane industry. He welcomes your calls and emails, whether it’s to provide more information to you about the disease, share ways to support the awareness effort or simply to talk. Contact him at 419-277-4794 or email acatchings@alliancesmallengines.com.

Who knows where those conversations might lead?

Brian Richesson

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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