To help empower family caregivers to succeed in the caregiving role, the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern Nevada is offering Savvy Caregiver Training, a six-week course designed to provide clinical-level training for family caregivers to help them: improve their knowledge, approach, skills and outlook; gain the confidence to set and achieve caregiving goals; and learn strategies to manage stress and make decisions.
“The training acknowledges the myriad stresses that can be associated with caregiving, and how mediators such as increased knowledge, skills and attitudes, combined with stable resources including financial, family and community support, can lead to decreased caregiver distress and increased rewards, thus achieving the goal of caregiving,” said Niki Rubarth, regional director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern Nevada.
Nearly 47,000 people in Nevada aged 65 and older currently live with Alzheimer’s disease — one-third of these individuals live in Northern Nevada. Nevada is the second most rapidly aging state in the United States, with the number of those affected predicted to rise to 64,000 by 2025.
Approximately 151,000 people in Nevada provide care and support for people living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. As the population ages, the increase in these statistics will result in a corresponding rise in caregivers — typically unpaid family caregivers — who will shoulder the responsibility of caring for loved ones as the disease progresses.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive impairment serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease isn’t a normal part of aging.
Care for a person living with Alzheimer’s or dementia can take many forms, from help with transportation to administering medications, bathing, dressing and feeding. According to data from the 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), in Nevada, more than half of all adults providing unpaid care to loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia have been doing so for at least 2 years, and nearly 40 percent (compared to a national average of 30 percent) of those caregivers provide 20 or more hours of care each week. BRFSS findings also indicate caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia creates physical and mental health problems for the caregivers, as one in eight caregivers report frequent physical distress and 22.9 percent report experiencing depression. Family caregivers play an essential role in helping people with Alzheimer’s disease remain engaged and active in the community, while avoiding or delaying institutional placement, but often to the detriment of their own health.
Barbara Singer, longtime Carson City resident, has been touched by Alzheimer’s disease, as her mother — and three of her mother’s siblings — lived with Alzheimer’s disease. Singer enrolled in the Savvy Caregiver Training course in 2017 to develop strategies to address the differing behaviors of a person living with Alzheimer’s disease, and to learn about self-care techniques.
“I signed up to take the Savvy course because I wanted to find out ways to help my mom and her siblings,” Singer said. “I needed ideas and techniques. Also, I facilitate two support groups and I wanted to increase my knowledge to help them. My uncle who lives in Maine took the Savvy course and said it really helped him, so he encouraged me to take it.”
The training, which has been described as offering professional-level training for the non-professional, uses occupational therapy approaches to assess the functioning of the person with the disease, and helps caregivers match their approach to that level with more self-confidence and a heightened sense of value and self-worth.
“While research continues to focus on ways to stop, slow, prevent or cure Alzheimer’s disease, much of the responsibility for helping people with dementia, preserving their sense of identity, autonomy and quality of life, while avoiding institutional placement, lies with caregivers,” said Rubarth. “Ensuring the health and well-being of caregivers is high on our list of priorities, and giving caregivers the skills and strategies they need and can rely upon to feel a sense of mastery of the caregiving role is just as important.”
Free Savvy Caregiving Training will be offered at the Carson City Senior Center, 911 Beverly Drive, starting June 19. For information on dates and times, or to register, call 775-786-8061 or email email@example.com. For information and resources, call the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern Nevada’s 24/7 helpline at 1-800-272-3900.