2017-08-16 / Arts & Entertainment News

Reaching the Alzheimer’s caregiver

GIVING
BY EMILY REESE
REACH Program Specialist Alzheimer’s Association-Florida Gulf Coast Chapter


EMILY REESE EMILY REESE There are few life experiences that prepare a person for the challenges of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. I recall being fairly fresh from graduate school with a master’s in gerontology and a mother-in-law who seemed increasingly discombobulated when I would see her.

I mentioned my concerns to family but the concern evaporated on the air carrying the words — after all, she was just 48 years old. A year later came a diagnosis — early onset Alzheimer’s.

The disease brought so many changes and challenges, such as forgetfulness, confusion, restlessness and pacing. I recall being as perplexed as her family by how to respond to these changes.

Research into the Alzheimer’s experience reveals that caregivers may experience social isolation, anxiety, depression, frustration, uncertainty about the future, self–doubt and even despair. For good reason, health care professionals are as concerned about the caregiver as the person with Alzheimer’s.

Since my mother-in-law’s diagnosis 34 years ago, knowledge has been gained exponentially. There is plenty of information available on caring for a person with Alzheimer’s but as one caregiver stated — “I have read books, blogs and attended education programs but I just needed to talk to someone.”

What if a caregiver could have a dementia care coach for six months to teach them about the disease, to guide them, to equip them with stress busting tools?

This became a reality when two years ago the Alzheimer’s Association-Florida Gulf Coast Chapter was one of 20 providers selected out of 240 applicants nationwide by the Rosalyn Carter Institute, Georgia Southwestern State University, to provide the Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health program.


— This summer, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2017 competitive grant cycle. The foundation serves Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. With assets of $111 million, the foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. For more information, see www.Florida Community.com or call 274- 5900. — This summer, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2017 competitive grant cycle. The foundation serves Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. With assets of $111 million, the foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. For more information, see www.Florida Community.com or call 274- 5900. There is no typical caregiver but there has been a typical impact of the REACH program. As caregivers learn new skills that produce different results, life with Alzheimer’s starts becoming more manageable and less stressful.

A REACH client, “Charlie,” was caring for his wife. He often felt very stressed by her changed behavior. During the course of 12 meetings over six months, Charlie learned specific tools to manage stress and strategies for problem solving challenging behaviors that he could apply now and to future issues.

A turning point for Charlie was recognizing his frustration was with the disease, not his wife. Through this new perspective he says he is able to laugh at situations that would have previously made him angry or frustrated. He simply states, “You saved my life.”

The REACH program was developed with input from the experts — caregivers.

Combined with sound information in managing well-being, caregivers take back a sense of self control that was lost when Alzheimer’s crystallized as the reality.

A generous Southwest Florida Community Impact Grant awarded in January of this year has allowed us to expand our reach to caregivers in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties so others like Charlie can be reached and equipped for their caregiving journey. ¦

— For more information about the Alzheimer’s Association and the REACH program; www.alz.org/flgulfcoast or email Emily Reese at ereese@alz.org.

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