Alzheimer’s disease is a slow decline. Most people who develop it survive for years after diagnosis, gradually losing memory and the ability to care for themselves. Families and caregivers can become overwhelmed. Fortunately, help is available.
The Alzheimer’s Association St. Louis Chapter offers a wide range of services for Alzheimer’s patients and their families. Sharing information and support can help alleviate stress and lift some of the burden.
A comprehensive listing of services is available at alz.org/stl, and Debra Bryer, early stage coordinator for the Alzheimer's Association St. Louis Chapter, highlights the individualized care consultations that allow staff to connect individuals and caregivers to the services that best serve their needs. For example, respite programs provide family caregivers either time to do necessary or desired activities, or provide needed products for the person with dementia. Educational programs and support groups are available to assist with issues relating to medications, activities, financial concerns and caregiver concerns.
An increasing number of assisted living and long-term care facilities offer specialized memory care programs and housing units. “The culture change in specialized memory care is refreshing, and it’s good for families and residents. We can see some of the things we started about 10 years ago taking root in other communities across St. Louis and across the country,” says Karen Tjaden, director of marketing and admissions at Parc Provence, a skilled nursing, assisted-living and memory care community in Creve Coeur.
Activities at Parc Provence are tailored to the stage of dementia in order to allow residents to do as much as possible for as long as possible. “And these activities aren’t fluff,” Tjaden notes. “It’s important to maintain cognitive awareness as long as possible, and social interaction also improves quality of life.”
Quarterly care plans are reviewed with families so everyone agrees on and understands all aspects of care, including diet, activity and nursing care. Monthly support groups and family education programs also help residents’ families share ideas and issues.
Cindy Paige, health services sales director at Aberdeen Heights, agrees that identifying the appropriate level of care and support is key. “People with dementia need stimulation and engagement,” she says. “We focus on three goals in the services we provide: maintaining residents’ self-esteem, sense of purpose and belonging.” To this end, staffers identify activities and participatory jobs for residents that match with their individual backgrounds and interests.
“We make sure our staffers meet residents wherever they are on their journey,” Paige says. “We focus on what they can do, not on what they can’t do.”