VOA-MN Helping Families Living with Dementia
CHANGING COMMUNITIES Big change is coming as the baby boomer generation ages. Nationwide, adults over 65 will outnumber children in less than 15 years. By 2020 there will be one million Minnesotans over 65. Most of us want to age in place at home in our own community. Factors like the cost of care, proximity to health care facilities and culturally competent medical providers are all necessary to support that option. We’re helping communities develop innovative care alternatives.
Bridging Care with Cultural Competency
240 98% $1.4M
caregivers received training and support services on disease, care and behavior management. reported the education and services of this program helped families care for their loved ones at home longer. additional funds secured to expand the model to other culturally specific communities.
Early diagnosis, treatment and caregiver support can help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease live safely at home longer. With an $80,000 strategic grant, Volunteers of America-Minnesota (VOA-MN) developed a pilot program to provide individualized, evidence-based support for African Americans with dementia and their caregivers. This new model proved so successful they were able to leverage their Medica Foundation grant to secure an additional $1.4 million in funding for this work. They will partner with the state and other community organizations to refine this model and expand the program to help the Hmong and Somali communities struggling with this growing community health issue. “This grant had a profound impact on the scope and nature of our Caregiver Support Service. Having a culturally affirmative and responsive model improves quality of life for people with dementia, their families and caregivers and the community,” said Dorothea Harris, Caregiver Support Services Program Manager. Historical trauma presents challenges for any organization serving communities of color and can cause distrust of established medical institutions, diagnoses and medical advice. Many African Americans wait to seek services until the family’s situation is desperate. Despite these hurdles, the African American Caregiver Support and Dementia Consultation Program earned community trust by providing culturally appropriate information and resources to help screen for early warning signs of dementia and teaching caregivers how to care for their loved ones and themselves. Helping Mary Stay Home Mary’s family was worried. Their mother exhibited signs of dementia, wasn’t eating or bathing and refused support from social service providers and her family. She had a history of stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure — for which she had been taking the wrong medication — and hadn’t seen a doctor in six months. The VOA-MN African American Caregiver Support team connected with Mary’s family to schedule a home visit. The staff calmly explained the dangers Mary faced without proper care and she agreed to a doctor’s appointment, where she was diagnosed with dementia. VOA-MN staff checked her blood pressure weekly and made sure Mary had the medications she needed. A Medica- funded social worker provided support for Mary’s family to understand their role as caregivers, educate them on the disease’s progression and provide connections to resources — even helping Mary get new shoes to ease her diabetic pain.
Teaching Caregivers New Strategies The situation Mary’s family faced is common. There are more than 40 million unpaid caregivers of adults over age 65 across the United States. It’s stressful and can lead to caregiver burnout or illness. Organizations like Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging work with community partners to address these issues. Our grant helped them support caregivers of persons with dementia. The Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health (REACH) program expanded to nine additional counties in greater Minnesota and doubled the number of REACH coaches throughout the state, bringing the total to 40. Peter’s* wife, Clara*, exhibited typical behavior patterns of dementia, including misplacing items, agitation, combativeness and confusion. She blamed her son for taking things, even though he lived in another state. Before her diagnosis, Clara showered daily, but Peter couldn’t get her to maintain a hygiene routine. The caregiver consultant helped Peter develop new problem-solving strategies. “Clara didn’t need to shower every day, every other day is enough. I learned how to create a positive experience to get that done,” Peter said. Caregivers like Peter reported the REACH program helped them feel less anxiety, a decreased burden and more positive mood.
*Names changed for privacy.
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