Caregiver Support Helps Families Dealing With Alzheimer's Disease

When Jane’s husband, Robert, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, she did her best to continue to take care of him in their Falmouth home. Despite her good intentions, it soon proved daunting to shoulder his caregiving responsibilities by herself.

“The stress of caring for Bob took a severe toll on my own health,” Jane said in a recent interview. “I was afraid to ask for help, and frankly, I didn’t know where to turn—it was all so overwhelming.”

This is typical of the difficulties faced by many dementia caregivers. “When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of dementia, the physical, emotional and financial toll on their family can be extreme,” said Elizabeth Maciolek, social worker for Hope HouseCalls Specialized Dementia Service. Having information and support quickly can make the difference in a family’s ability to cope with this challenge, she added.

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HopeHealth’s newest dementia service is designed to support the caregiver. It provides caregivers with education, behavioral management, care plan development, home safety plans and cognitive assessments. It is designed to address many of the issues caregivers experience on a daily basis. The program includes an ongoing assessment of one’s situation as a way to develop meaningful and effective interventions for caregivers.

Social workers assess a family’s needs and ongoing support, which allows them to focus on each problem one step at a time, resulting in long-term solutions that allow life to become manageable again.

Most families faced with a chronic disease diagnosis such as dementia think they have to navigate on their own. Ms. Maciolek said that no family should have to try and figure this out on their own. They need assistance in order to make it through.

According to Ms. Maciolek, the biggest hurdle is the stigma attached to a dementia diagnosis. “When people begin to lose their short-term memory in the early stage of the disease progression, they think, ‘Oh my god, what is wrong with me?’ They’re ashamed, scared and embarrassed, want to hide their symptoms and not tell anyone. This leads to the fact that 50 percent of those with accelerated cognitive decline are not even diagnosed. That means half of all people with symptoms have not been to see a doctor, which is a huge barrier to accepting help.”

By reaching out, families can connect with services, Ms. Maciolek said. Educational information can help demystify the disease and can allow families to create a strategy to help remove obstacles.

For ongoing support, Hope HouseCalls Specialized Dementia Service can provide family members with guidance in the home. To schedule an appointment, call 508-957-0277; or visit HopeHealthCo.org.

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