By LINDA COMINS, For Prime Times
EASTERN OHIO residents can participate in a free in-home program designed to help individuals with memory problems and to assist family members who are caring for them.
The Greater East Ohio Area Alzheimer’s Association has joined with the Ohio Department of Aging and the Benjamin Rose Institute to implement the new program, called Reducing Disability in Alzheimer’s Disease.
The association’s Youngstown office serves Belmont, Columbiana, Guernsey, Harrison, Jefferson, Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
Carolyn Lake, helpline coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association, said the free program offers one-on-one assistance, all done in the family’s home.
“The RDAD program is designed to help teach older adults who may suffer from memory problems how to do some simple exercises to improve their overall health,” Lake explained. “The program also teaches family members about symptoms to watch for and how to care for persons with memory problems. This program hopes to improve the ability of the person with memory problems to carry out activities of daily living while also helping family members provide assistance to their relative.”
Currently, several families are going through the program and several others’ participation is pending, she said.
“Everybody is responding very well. We’re getting very, very good feedback,” Lake commented. “We’re really excited about the program.”
A specially trained professional comes to the home for 16 sessions. Each session lasts about an hour, Lake said.
During these sessions, the caseworker teaches exercises to the person with memory problems to help improve strength and balance. Family members are taught how to assist their relative with these exercises.
“A lot of behavioral changes accompany Alzheimer’s disease,” Lake related. Through the exercises, family members learn actions that can help the person who is struggling to cope with memory problems.
For example, Lake said, the recommendation to a family member “may be as simple as slowing down conversation.” The person with memory problems may benefit if family members give physical clues as well as verbal clues to suggested behavior. For instance, instead of just saying, “Go brush your teeth,” the family member could show the person the physical action of brushing one’s teeth.
Family members also are asked to keep a record of their relatives’ exercise progress and to complete four brief surveys about the sessions that will be sent to the Benjamin Rose Institute.
“All information will be kept completely confidential,” Lake said. “Participation in this program is completely voluntary. Deciding to stop participating in the program will in no way affect any services that you receive or may receive from the participating organizations.”
For more information or enrollment in the program, family members can call Lake at 330-864-5646 or 800-272-3900.
Lake said she conducts a brief screening, lasting five minutes or less, over the telephone. A release form is sent to the person’s physician. After the association receives the doctor’s release, Lake will work with the family to schedule visits by the caseworkers.
A side benefit of the program is that it “gets our caseworkers in the home,” Lake said, adding that interaction with a caseworker “helps release stress” for the patient and the family caregivers.