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Finding the Support You Need When Caring for a Loved One With Dementia

Thanks to advances in medical science and technology, we are living longer than ever. In fact, the average life expectancy in the United States has increased nearly a decade since 1960 to 78.69 years. However, with advanced age often comes the need for long-term care.

As the number of Americans over the age of 65 multiplies, more adult children are finding themselves caring for a disabled or aging parent or loved one.

Dementia is the leading cause of disability in our elderly population, affecting one in three seniors nationwide. Dementia is treatable, but there is currently no cure.

“As the population ages, there are more people in their later years,” said Sarah L. Maus, LCSW, ACSW, a clinical social worker and the manager of Abington – Jefferson Health’s Muller Institute for Senior Health. “We are medically able to cure or manage more illnesses than ever, which leaves many older adults living with multiple chronic illnesses, including dementia.”

Maus explains that even dementia patients who are able-bodied might require constant care because they cannot be left alone. Many times, families cannot afford these services, which are not generally covered by health insurance, and families are left to take on the responsibility.

Acting as a caregiver for someone with dementia can be physically, emotionally and financially draining. In order to offset some of that weight, Abington - Jefferson Health offers a variety of resources to help make caregivers’ lives easier.

Finding Support

The Muller Institute for Senior Health hosts two support groups for caregivers. One group meets on the fourth Monday of each month at 1 p.m. in the Willowood Building at Abington Jefferson Health – Willow Grove. The group is open to anyone who is caring for a friend or relative, regardless of their diagnosis.

A second support group, tailored to those caring for someone with dementia, is held on the first Wednesday of each month at 3:30 p.m. at Abington Jefferson Health - Warminster. This session offers activities for the person being cared for, giving their caregiver time to engage in the session.

“Often, people can’t leave the person they’re caring for to attend a support group, but this helps with that,” said Maus. “We are able to provide supervision for the person for whom they are caring.”

During the groups, caregivers share their frustrations, successes and thoughts in an open, conversational and confidential setting. Written brochures and resources are also available. According to Maus, advice is in no short supply.

“People learn from each other,” she said. “They know what has and hasn’t worked for them and they share their stories to provide support.”

Asking for Help

As research continues in the fight against dementia, members of the community are also becoming more in-tune with the struggles and needs of caregivers.

“People with dementia have lives, as do their caregivers,” said Maus. “My biggest piece of advice is to reach out to people in the community and at the hospital who can help you. There is so much trial and error involved in caring for a person with dementia and it really helps to learn from those who are, or who have been in similar situations.”

For more information about caregiver support groups and other resources for seniors, call the Muller Institute for Senior Health at 215-481-2571.

Finding the Support You Need When Caring for a Loved One With Dementia

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