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Support for the Impact of Dementia

Feb 6, 2017, 10:42 AM by Sansum Clinic

Caregiver and Dementia Patient
Today, more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer's Disease. Most are cared for at home, by friends and family members. The Alzheimer's Association estimates that in 2015, more than 15 million caregivers provided approximately 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care. Looking more closely at caregivers, two of three are women and one of three are seniors. Compared to other caregivers, caregivers for persons with dementia are more likely to suffer financially, have high levels of stress and depression, and see their own health suffer.

In a typical caregiving situation, a wife might lovingly arrange her activities around her husband's need for care, companionship and supervision. She takes him to the doctor, she cooks, washes and cleans up after him. During the day she goes with him to his favorite restaurant and watches his favorite shows. He becomes frantic in her absence so she gradually stops doing her own activities. He follows her closely because her presence is comforting. At night, he is often restless but she is able to help him calm down. Her experience started with a deep desire to care for her loved one, but it has turned into isolation, sadness, sleep deprivation and exhaustion.

The job of the caregiver for a person with dementia involves physical, financial, environmental, social and emotional stress. It causes elevated risk of conditions such as high blood pressure, anxiety, shingles and heart attack. A caregiver also lives with the very real possibility that they might die before their loved one who has dementia due to stress related health issues.

If you are a caregiver for a person with dementia, you need to take care of your own health in order to provide the best care for your loved one. Planned respite, time to rest and activity that brings joy is good medicine for caregivers. Many find that it is helpful to know they are not alone and to learn from others in the caregiver community. Some join local support groups or participate in educational classes, and those opportunities help them find other caregivers who are on a similar journey.

Sansum Clinic partners with the Alzheimer's Association to offer Understanding Dementia, an education and support group for caregivers. The group meets monthly on the 3rd Thursday from 4:30 to 6:00pm with facilitator Luciana Mitzkun to learn about a new topic and have a group discussion in a supportive environment.

Topics might include:

  • Modifications for the home
  • Traveling with a dementia patient
  • Financial preparations for dementia care
  • Driving and dementia
  • Better communication with dementia patients
  • Tips for dressing and bathing

Understanding Dementia is free of charge and open to the community. The Alzheimer's Association also publishes a monthly newsletter, Caregiver Tips & Tools, with a topic of the month and a great deal of useful information.

As a caregiver for someone with dementia, ask for help. Caregivers give time, energy and resources to provide for their loved ones. Stay strong as a caregiver and take advantage of the support available.

Advance Directives Workshop

Advance Care Planning is a process to plan for a time when you cannot make your own medical decisions and are unlikely to recover from illness or injury.

We offer Advance Directives Workshops to help patients, families and caregivers:

  • Select a qualified healthcare agent to act on your behalf
  • Explore your values, goals, beliefs and preferences for your healthcare
  • Document name of your healthcare agent and preferences in an Advance Directive
  • Share decisions with loved ones and healthcare providers
  • Record your Advance Care Plan in your electronic health record

RSVP toll-free (866) 829-0909 or click here to learn more about Advance Health Care Directives.

The staff at the Health Resource Center at 215 Pesetas Lane can also help you complete the form and discuss other forms or issues related to your healthcare. Call (805) 681-7672 for more information.

This service is free of charge. Advance Care Planning (ACP) is brought to you in collaboration with the Alliance for Living and Dying Well, and with support from the James S. Bower Foundation.

For further information, please contact the Sansum Clinic Health Resource Center, (805) 681-7672.