Article, "Author Helps Families Affected by Alzheimer's"

by Sophia Fischer, The Acorn Newspaper, Agoura Hills, CA, Family Section, May 7, 2009

LEGACY—Bob Bublitz displays some of his late mother's art.

The colorful oil paintings that hang throughout the Westlake Village home of Bob Bublitz were created by his mother, Olive Mae Bublitz. But, although she admired them, for the last five years of her life she didn't remember that she was the artist. Olive Mae had Alzheimer's disease.

Bob Bublitz cared for his mother throughout her illness until her death at age 87 on Aug. 15, 2007.

To help others who are caring for a loved one, Bublitz wrote "Alzheimer's—What My Mother's Caregiving Taught Me: Essential Knowledge for Effective Alzheimer's Caregiving."

The 317-page book will be published by BookSurge, a subsidiary of Amazon, on Aug. 5, his mother's birthday.

"I plan to do something special on that day," said Bublitz, 67.

Bublitz decided to write a book shortly after his mother was diagnosed in 2002.

"When I started the journey there wasn't much information out there at all," Bublitz said. "It was pretty difficult."

Bublitz grew up in Wisconsin, in the childhood home his mother still lived in at the time of her diagnosis. His father had died in 1973 from a heart attack. On a summer visit to her in 2001, Bublitz felt that his mother "wasn't acting quite right." He mentioned his observation to his cousins.

"People said to me 'You're too overly concerned with your mother,'" Bublitz said.

A couple of months later his mother had a car accident. Her health began to decline, Bublitz said, and by January 2002 brain scans revealed an advanced case of Alzheimer's. Bublitz moved his mother and began taking care of her in his own home. An only child, he said he felt a tremendous responsibility to care for her.

"What do you say about someone who gives your life meaning?," wrote Bublitz in his mother's eulogy. "What do you say about someone who is always there with support and understanding, someone who makes sacrifices so that your life will be better and more successful? God blessed Mother and me by giving us five years and eight months to say goodbye." 

The first year in Westlake Village, Olive Mae enjoyed walks on her own. But then she began getting lost and going into other people's homes. Bublitz hired a caregiver who moved into his home but left several months later. Staff at Senior Concerns in Thousand Oaks called Bublitz to say they could no longer host his mother at activities.

"She got to the point where she required too much attention," Bublitz said.

Bublitz moved her into Leisure Living in Agoura Hills. A month later, Bublitz was diagnosed with prostate cancer, underwent surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, N.Y., then suffered from an infection. For a while he couldn't do much to help his mother.

At a Thousand Oaks caregiver support group he joined, Bublitz noticed a high rate of ailments among the group members.

"A high percentage of caregivers, because of extreme stress, end up with illnesses themselves or dying," Bublitz said. "There are resources they need to survive the caregiving."

He hopes that the book will provides those answers and says he wants to conduct corresponding workshops for caregivers. The book suggests alternatives to ensure that a loved one is safe, clean and provided adequate nutrition, exercise and rest, that he or she is comfortable, free of pain and allowed to die with dignity.

"I want to give people a thorough background on the disease," Bublitz said. "I also will dedicate part of the workshop for putting together a plan, discussing the stress and how to deal with it."

Bublitz credited family, friends, neighbors and medical professionals with helping him care for his mother. He estimates that he spent about $600,000 for her care.

"The average cost of taking care of someone with Alzheimer's is absolute staggering," he said.

His mother's oil paintings are a constant reminder of her. She didn't begin painting until the age of 60. She painted about 50 paintings, some of which were exhibited and earned awards. She gave paintings away as gifts.

"I spent my life in electronic design and . . . never had time to do the things she did," Bublitz said. "She lived in a different generation. She was a really great person."

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