The Salvation Army Kroc center in Camden County will be hosting a community forum to help caregivers in the area deal with the challenges of caring for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s, Dementia, or memory loss.
Mary Beth Lewis, Program Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter said the forum has four main goals it intends to accomplish and focus on for caregivers; “To listen to the experiences of the community related to the cause”, “Identify needs, gaps, resources, and opportunities”, “Elevate awareness and visibility of the Alzheimer’s Association”, “Increase community engagement to mobilize community partners and engage volunteers”.
“This offers caregivers the opportunity to discuss what their experience is like looking after someone, what their journey has been like, and allow people [in similar situations] to know they are not alone,” said Lewis, “So often we have people say ‘I wish I knew about these resources sooner.’”
In addition to the laid out focuses of the forum, Lewis says the forum wants a mixed audience between professionals such as doctors, nurses, and nursing home aids to attend. But also, caregivers, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, who unfortunately have to deal with the challenge of aiding a loved one.
“The mix of an audience expands our reach…it’s good for professionals [with patients] to know about our resources so they can refer [patients] to us,” said Lewis.
Another challenge Lewis helps to assist with is making sure caretakers do not wait to reach out for help. Oftentimes family’s will wait to seek assistance because it’s an incredibly hard topic to come to grips with. Lewis knows from personal experience how difficult this process is.
“It’s very common for people to hide it [both the caregiver and the patient]. I know in my circumstance my mom had Alzheimer’s and [family members] would hide it, but we wanted people to help. These conversations are so difficult to have. But, early diagnosis is so important, we help people with that,” said Lewis.
The Alzheimer’s Association has also set up a 24/7 free helpline that is staffed by clinicians who are fluent in hundreds of languages, available to offer a helping hand for caregivers who are struggling with stress, or searching for local resources who will aid in medical care.
“The [most important takeaway] of this forum is how much we want to see a mixed audience. We want to see professionals, we want to see caregivers, we want community influencers. It really helps gather feedback, while also gaining knowledge of our association.”