When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, the patient’s caregiver may feel overwhelmed with “what if’s” and the burden of accomplishing daily activities with someone losing their memory.
But thanks to Alan B. Stevens, Ph.D., and the Scott & White Caregiver Program, these men and women, who sacrifice their time to care for another, are getting some much need help and encouragement.
“We’re making a unique attempt to address the well-being and needs of the caregivers so they can address the needs of the patients,” Dr. Stevens said.
The program was born out of an evidence-based intervention program called REACH, which stands for Research for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Care and Health. Dr. Stevens assisted in designing the program and helped bring it to the Scott & White healthcare system.
“It was tested at five different sites and the intervention had a positive impact on the caregiver’s quality of life,” Dr. Stevens said.
The program combines a variety of skill building objectives including keeping your home safe for caregiver and patient, using social support, managing stress and understanding your feelings.
Dr. Stevens said the most important skill a caregiver can learn from the program is learning to cope with stress.
“Caregivers of dementia patients are at high risk for developing depression,” the doctor said. “We teach them how to take a signal breath in those times of great stress.”
Some caregivers might not even realize they need help. To get these people the help they deserve, Dr. Stevens and his staff identify candidates for the program through those who admitted to the hospital and clinics.
“We get a daily report of who meets the initial criteria,” Dr. Stevens said. “Then our staff follows up by setting up a meeting with the patient and caregiver and telling them about the program.”
If the caregiver wants the help, they meet with a consultant and are referred to the program. They can be enrolled as long as they need it.
“We do an initial assessment and we evaluate how the caregiver feels about the safety of the home, the level of burden they feel and if they are feeling depressed,” Dr. Stevens said. “We provide social support and reevaluate the caregiver in six months.”
There are 112 caregivers enrolled to date and Dr. Stevens and his staff hope to increase this number as well as their funds.
“Our goal is to continue providing this service to Scott & White patients through grants and philanthropic agencies,” Dr. Stevens said. “We want to eventually expand to the other Scott & White locations like Waco and Round Rock.”
For more information about this program, please contact Lisa Trickett in the Family Resource Center at 254-215-0463.