Become a savvy caregiver

Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2008

This month, family members or friends caring for someone with memory loss or dementia will have a rare opportunity to attend the Savvy Caregiver training series. A nationally acclaimed program, Savvy Caregiver gives an in-depth understanding of memory loss and the disease process, teaches practical skills that can be used every day, and gives caregivers a sense of competence needed when caring for someone with dementia. It also helps reduce the stress and adverse effects associated with caregiving and improves the quality of life for both the caregiver and their loved one.

Developed in conjunction with researchers from the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), Emory University (Atlanta) and Duke University (Durham), the program helps family caregivers regain control over their lives. Research has shown that the course reduces caregiver distress.

Amanda Lofgren, Education Specialist for the Alzheimer's Disease Resource Agency of Alaska, will offer various ways for family members to participate. From 5 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 26 and Aug. 28, she will present the series at the Mountain View Apartment Community Room. A working dinner will be provided. The Mountain View Apartments are located at 895 W. 12th St., one block north of the Juneau-Douglas Bridge, next to the Juneau Senior Center.

For those who prefer a daytime class, the series will be offered from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday in the same location. The series will include a working lunch. Caregivers wishing to attend the daytime series and needing a safe, supervised place for their loved one to stay during the day are encouraged to call the Bridge Adult Day Program at 463-6171. The Bridge Program is located at 1803 Glacier Highway.

"The Savvy Caregiver training gives caregivers a general overview of the disease so they understand why their loved one is doing what they are doing," explains Lofgren. She will provide an introduction to dementia and will look at the following cognitive impairments: memory, judgment, reasoning, language, perception, organization and abstraction. Caregivers will be given an assessment tool to gauge where their loved one is in the disease process. "This will help caregivers better support their loved ones through communication, activities and daily care".

Other aspects of the training will include minimizing confusion and taking charge, handling abilities and loss of abilities, and providing structure and support. A discussion of difficult decisions and a decision making tool will also be offered.

On Aug. 27 and Aug. 29, Amanda will make herself available for individual consultations with family members wanting personalized assistance. She will offer guidance in planning for the course of a progressive dementia, including legal and financial considerations, techniques for providing care at home, availability of services, contacts and costs, and recent research activity and findings related to causes, cures and medication.

Both the consultations and the training series are free of charge. For further information, contact Amanda toll free at 1-800-478-1080.

• Marianne Mills is the program director of Southeast Senior Services, which offers home and community based services for older Alaskans throughout the region. SESS is a part of Catholic Community Service and assists all persons regardless of their faith.

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