Southside support services for dementia caregivers to be offered by Riverside for first time

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New treatment options for caregivers of residents living with memory loss diseases and Alzheimer’s are coming to the Southside this year.

The Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging and Lifelong Health, along with the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services and the University of Virginia, is bringing its F.A.M.I.L.I.E.S. program to South Hampton Roads – including Norfolk and Virginia Beach – with funds from a federal grant.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are about 450,000 caregivers in the Commonwealth providing unpaid care to these individuals.

F.A.M.I.L.I.E.S., or Family Access to Memory Impairment and Loss Information, Engagement and Support, offers counseling and support services at no cost to caregivers, both in person and with telehealth opportunities.

“The goal is to help bring entire families together in big and small ways to help the primary caregiver in caring for a family member with dementia,” said Dr. Christine Jensen, CEALH’s Director of Health Services Research, in a news release. “Compassionate, trained counselors assess the individual situation, help with understanding of memory loss and how it may progress, develop an individualized care program for the family and discuss coping strategies for stress and changes in personality or behaviors.”

Caregivers can receive six free counseling sessions and one follow-up session with counselors to handle stress and depression. The sessions will allow caregivers to increase family support, learn techniques for managing memory disorders and to provide assistance with finding additional services and resources.

“The F.A.M.I.L.I.E.S. program is the longest running intervention to support dementia-related caregivers out there,” Jensen said in the news release. “Caregivers and their families are getting free confidential sessions with counselors who are certified in the very specific type of care. Not just for the caregiver, but for the entire family and team.”

The number of people 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2015 was 130,000, and is expected to rise to 190,000 by 2025. One in every nine of those adults 45 or older – roughly 11 percent – are experiencing memory loss or confusion.

“As the sessions went on, I was able to mobilize resources for me that I wouldn’t have done if it weren’t for the counselor – from support groups to financial planning to just figuring out what the issues were,” one program participant said in the news release. “She really helped guide me.”

Jensen said that similar programs have been shown to delay patient need for nursing home care.

“We’ve had folks, primary caregivers, who weren’t quite sure how to tell other family members they needed help,” Jensen said in the release. “They didn’t know how to divide the load of responsibilities. Bringing families together in this guided support with a counselor who is skilled helps folks realize they are not alone.”

To determine if you are eligible for the for this program or to learn more, call Riverside toll free at 888-597-0828 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.