Finding support for those affected by Alzheimer’s
Special to The Union
“As far as I know, I don’t have Alzheimer’s or dementia,” said Kimberly Parker, executive director of Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation. “However, like so many others, there are days I can’t remember something that should be easy to remember, or I forget to do something, or wonder why I can’t remember the name of the person I know so well. I feel that fear deep inside wondering if it could be the early signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia. I know I am not the only one that has thought that.”
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in this country and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the U.S. that can’t be prevented, cured or slowed.
Since November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month, as well as Family Caregivers Month, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation (SNMHF) felt this was the perfect time to launch its “Remember Me: The face behind dementia” campaign to call attention to and help support the nearly 3,000 people in this community who struggle daily with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
A common misconception is that the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s are interchangeable. The fact is, dementia is a syndrome, meaning a group of symptoms. The most prominent is memory impairment, but it also includes difficulties in one or more areas of cognitive functioning, such as language, attention, problem solving, spatial skills, judgment, planning or organization.
Alzheimer’s disease is a specific form of dementia, causing anywhere from 50 percent to 70 percent of all dementia cases in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Approximately 5.1 million Americans 65 and older currently have Alzheimer’s. As the population ages, that number is projected to almost triple by the year 2050, to 13.8 million, unless medical breakthroughs are made to prevent or cure the disease.
In Nevada County, 19.4 percent of the population is over 65, exceeding the state average of 11.4 percent. It’s no wonder that a recent Dignity Health study identified Alzheimer’s and dementia as one of this community’s top needs.
Currently small in scale, SNMHF’s Alzheimer’s Outreach Program (AOP) strives to help families and caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s or other progressive dementia. Over the years virtually all other similar services within our community have diminished or disappeared, leaving this population vulnerable. Because of that, SNMHF has plans to grow the program to meet the needs of our community.
According to Parker, the goal of the “Remember Me” campaign is to raise $200,000 to expand the AOP in four key areas:
Crisis Navigation will provide one-on-one counseling for caregivers and patients to connect them with resources, telephone counseling to manage immediate needs and help reduce crisis visits to the emergency department, home assessments and more.
Respite will allow exhausted caregivers a short period of rest or relief from the person for whom they are caring. There is virtually no respite support currently available locally. Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers rate their emotional stress as high or very high, 40 percent suffer from depression and more than 30 percent die prior to the person they’re caring for. Without respite, not only can families suffer economically and emotionally, caregivers themselves may face serious health and social risks as a result of stress associated with continuous caregiving.
A dynamic AOP service, the “Yes I Can” Caregiver Empowerment Series, assists struggling caregivers. This seven-week program provides direction on basic day-to-day challenges as well as complicated issues, such as how to know when to take a loved one’s keys away. Currently there is a significant waiting list. Funding will enable the AOP to offer an additional series each year.
Funding for education and training will enable SNMHF to purchase the necessary resources to communicate with community members about Alzheimer’s and dementia. In the early 2000s the AOP created a resource guide that was distributed widely in the community and highly utilized. It will also allow for training support for those who may work with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, for those in law enforcement and for others who would benefit from it.
Half of the funding ($100,000) will come from larger donations, potential grants, small events and other sources. Because Alzheimer’s and dementia have such a tremendous impact on this community, SNMHF asks community members to join with them in creating a movement about this important subject.
“Imagine 1,000 people joining together in support of ‘the face behind dementia’ with an impactful gift of $100 or more. That would ensure $100,000 of the $200,000 goal,” said Parker.
Contributions may be given by check (payable to SNMH Foundation/AOP) and mailed to SNMHF, PO BOX 1810, Grass Valley, CA 95945, by going online to http://www.supportsierranevada.org or by calling the office at 530-477-9700 and making a credit card gift.
All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.
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