The Alzheimer’s Association and the Southeast Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability hosted the Caregiver Conference 2014 Summer Symposium: Conversations About Dementia on Thursday at Westwood Baptist Church.
A portion of the three-part symposium focused on the resources available to caregivers.
Christin McWhorter of the SETN Area Agency explained the resources serve both as an aid for those with dementia and as a reminder the caregiver is not alone.
“I talk and counsel with people all the time, and it really takes a circle of support,” McWhorter said. “You really can’t think of just one answer or one program or one agency that is out there to meet your needs.”
The circle-of-support model prompted the symposium organizers to ask a variety of individuals to serve on the resource discussion panel: Amanda Leslie of Avalon Hospice, Stacey Montgomery of CareSouth, Paul Hensel of Senior Helpers, Keisha Holcomb of Signature Health Care and Embrey Ardis of Clare Bridge and Wellington Place.
Each representative repeatedly emphasized the importance of caregivers checking out a variety of agencies before making a choice.
Hensel encouraged caregivers to shop around at the vendor tables.
“... Visit every table that is here, because while we are all licensed the same and can all technically provide the same type of services, we all do have some things that make us a little bit different and unique,” she said. “We may do different service hours, or our rates may be different.”
She likened the experience to visiting several different car dealerships in search of the best automobile for the buyer.
“You might go all over town and go back to the first dealership,” Hensel said. “You want to be an informed consumer.”
Leslie followed Hensel’s introduction with a quick word about hospice care. She said most people do not think of hospice when a loved one develops dementia or Alzheimer’s.
“We do like to take care of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s,” she said. “Once they [reach the point] where they need assistance with walking or bathing or dressing, then we like to step in and help the caregivers. It does help to have someone come into your house at least once a week to check on [you].”
Ardis took the discussion a step further by highlighting personalized assisted living communities. She described the residential area as a safe living environment for individuals who cannot live on their own. She agreed with Hensel’s suggestion to “shop around.”
“It is good to check your options because it is wonderful there are a lot of services available in the community,” she said. “You know your parents and loved ones. You know what is going to be important to them. You know what is going to be important to you. Sometimes when you just walk into a community, you can tell, ‘This is so like my mom.’”
Continued Ardis, “We are resources, and we do partner together as resources. When we get the calls, we are able to work together. If we can’t provide the best option, then we can provide other solutions to help you through the process.”
Holcomb explained there is a general outline of questions asked by nursing homes when a patient is seeking admittance. She informed the crowd they had the opportunity to look into the information needed before a crisis. She also reminded the caregivers of the various activities, resources and benefits offered at each nursing home.
Added Holcomb, “We do have activities that go on throughout the day. I like to say that bingo is a must, and if we do not do bingo, there will be a complete riot. We also like to do trips outside of the facility.”
All panelists stressed the importance of caregivers being informed whether it is about resources provided through a particular agency or those gained through a veteran’s package.
The Alzheimer’s Association will hold its annual Cleveland Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday, Sept. 27, at 9 a.m.
More information about resources and the association can be found by calling the Chattanooga chapter at 423-265-3600.