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Panel Offers Advice, Resources for Dementia Caregivers

LONGMEADOW, Mass. –Dementia is a growing issue in America – one that causes plenty of anxiety among caregivers in need of resources.  “As people are living longer they are at risk for cognitive disorders including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” remarked Dr. Stuart Anfang, Medical Director of the Memory Disorder Program at Baystate Medical Center. “

Anfang explained the differences between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and how to obtain an evaluation and care recommendations, as part of a dinner and discussion on “Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease,” held September 19th at JGS Lifecare. About 45 community members came out to listen to a panel of nine local experts from across the care spectrum, who offered information, support and resources to help families recognize and cope with a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.   

Attorney Lisa Beauvais emphasized the importance of having a loved one sign a Health Care Proxy – to identify someone to take care of medical and placement decision; and a Power of Attorney – to identify someone to take care of financial affairs – while they are able to understand and make these important decisions. Without these legal documents one’s only recourse is use of the courts, which is both costly and time consuming.

Shannon Conner, owner of Choices Elder Support, reviewed the role of geriatric care manager.  Services include helping people connect with their doctors, make appointments, receive a  clear diagnosis and care plan; look at financial needs and help clients connect with financial services; look at housing and identify the best home environment for clients, help with transitions; act as a referral source; a patient advocate ; and offer crises intervention.

Heather Jagodowski, Program Coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Association of Western MA, partners with local organizations to offer education programming about dementia and Alzheimer ’s disease.  She spoke of the resources offered by the Alzheimer’s Association and their mission to educate caregivers.

Darlene Francis, Executive Director of Ruth’s House Assisted Living and Madeline Presz, Executive Director of Spectrum Home Health & Hospice Care, talked about the services of their respective organizations.  “In the Ruth’s House Garden Neighborhood, we help people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease live as normal a life as they possible can,” Francis said.  “As their disease progresses, so does their care.  The key is to keep their mind stimulated, keep them active and engaged.  We educate families as well as providing a safe, nurturing and loving environment for our residents.” 

Added Presz, “Spectrum offers a wide array of supportive and rehabilitative services to people in their own homes, including skilled nursing services, physical, occupational and speech therapy, home safety evaluations, and home health aide services, such as helping with activities of daily living – dressing, getting in and out of the shower, grooming, and meal preparation.  Our Hospice services, offered to those with life limiting illnesses, provides comfort and quality of life and a dignified end to life, in a person’s own home, be it their personal home, and assisted living residence or a nursing home, wherever they may be.”

Barbara Perman, President and CEO of Moving Mentors, offered tips and strategies including forming a caregiver circle; rightsizing and deciding what is still important to keep; reviewing family finances; becoming educated on care options; make connections and build bridges; and avoid making assumptions, instead  discussing  matters with your family members.

“Living with illness as you get older is like living with a hurricane,” she said.  “Decide to be prepared and do what you can do now.”

Jim Leyden, director of the Longmeadow Adult Center, spoke of senior centers are evolving and dynamic organizations that offer a wide array of programs and services to meet the needs of older adults and seniors.  Within a year, the new Longmeadow Adult Center will be completed, offering activity rooms, a café, gymnasium, and a walking track. 

Rachel Tierney, a retired nurse who cared for her husband, Jim, put a face on the care partner on the Alzheimer’s journey, sharing photos of Jim and his family.  She stressed that it takes a family and a village and a lot of resources to help manage the course of the journey of Alzheimer’s disease, encouraging participants to become familiar with resources that are available.

The presentation was extremely informative, interesting, and helpful. Hearing so many different points of views about caring for someone with Alzheimer’s was quite enlightening. I walked away knowing so much more about the resources in our community that are available to help families who are affected by this terrible disease,” commented community attendee Amy Cohen.

JGS Lifecare is a campus of caring that supports individuals and families struggling with cognitive impairments, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and is a founding supporter of the Dementia Friendly Longmeadow initiative.  As such, JGS Lifecare is vested in offering programs like the Annual Alzheimer’s Panel to help educate, increase awareness, and improve people’s quality of life. 

Looking ahead, JGS LIfecare will host a three-part series presented by Heather Jagodowski of the Alzheimer’s Association at Ruth’s House Assisted Living Residence on October 29th, November 13th and November 18th on “The 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s”; “Safety & Memory Challenges”; and “Understanding and Responding to Dementia-Related Behavior.”  To register call the 24/7 Helpline at the Alzheimer’s Association at 800-272-3900 or call Darlene Francis at 413-567-6212, ext. 2474 or email dfrancis@JGSLifecare.org

About JGS Lifecare

JGS Lifecare is a leading health care system serving seniors and their families. JGS Lifecare services include nursing home care (The Leavitt Family Jewish Nursing Home), rehabilitation services (Sosin Center for Rehabilitation), home health and hospice care (Spectrum Home Health & Hospice), assisted living (Ruth’s House Assisted Living Residence), adult day health care (Wernick Adult Day Health Care), independent living (Genesis Lifecare) and palliative care (Francis B. Cohen Palliative Care Program. For more information, call JGS Lifecare at 413-567-6211 or visit jgslifecare.org.