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Added coaching helps dementia caregivers cope

The life of a caregiver caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia can be filled with sources of stress.

The repeated questions about the same topics every day. The items lost or hidden. Or the most disconcerting of all – a person with dementia driving off in the car to become hopelessly lost, or worse. Then there is the guilt.

Not surprisingly, nearly 60% of these caregivers rank their emotional stress as high or very high and 40% are themselves suffering from depression, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Rosalyn Carter Institute (RCI) took notice of the good work being done by the Fox Valley Memory Project and founders the Rev. John and Dr. Susan McFadden, working with Mosaic Family Health and Fox Valley Family Medicine Residency. RCI suggested piloting their “best practices” model known as REACH (Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health) in the Fox Valley.

The Americus, Georgia-based institute provides materials, on-site training and ongoing consultation to support the Fox Valley program.

The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region likewise supported the program with a $67,000 grant from the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund to Mosaic Family Health in 2020 to add a second coach to eliminate the waiting list for supports to caregivers.

Susan and Heather are two REACH counselors from Mosaic.

Their approach is straightforward. The caregiver is paired with a certified coach who, at no charge, provides strategies and techniques for dealing with the symptoms of dementia, stress management and more. The caregiver meets with the coach up to 12 times in a year including, but not limited to, nine home visits and three phone consultations.

Jackie Gonzalez, clinic/care coordinator with Mosaic, said caregivers have been particularly thankful for the one-on-one support sessions.

“Caregivers time and time again tell us how critical this support is for them in their caregiving journey,” Gonzales said. “Caregivers who have been through the program continue to keep in touch and tell our coaches, ‘You’re my angel.’”

One caregiver recently wrote about being grateful to learn of the program, saying, “My stress went from a 9-10 to a 1 thanks to the coaching I received.”

“When the pandemic hit, the stresses facing caregivers were amplified,” Gonzalez said. Mosaic coaches reached out to people previously served by the program and offered additional support on the phone or virtually. Additional COVID-19 grant funding helped increase the support time available for caregivers caring for a loved one.

To make a referral or for more information, call Heather or Susan at Mosaic Family Health, 920.997.8407. Who were the Nelsons? Learn more about the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund and find out more about this generous couple here.

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