Currently more than 5.4 million Americans are experiencing Alzheimer’s disease, 5.2 million of whom are 65 or older. Family and friends provided 18 billion hours of unpaid care for people experiencing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in 2015 alone (www.alz.org/facts).
Supporting people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias (ADRD) to continue living safely and comfortably in the community requires a combined effort between care partnerships, health-care providers, community agencies and the community itself.
For this reason, the Orange County Department on Aging began the Orange County Caregiver Awareness, Respite, Education and Support program (OC CARES), which seeks to develop and coordinate this effort for families, caregivers, and the Orange County community.
Through a 3-year initiative funded by the U.S. Administration for Community Living, a team of occupational therapists and social workers, all certified by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America as Dementia Care Professionals, are working to support caregivers and their loved ones.
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Caregivers offer physical support, care coordination and financial resources to ensure their loved ones receive the most comfort possible. However, this act of love can often be challenging and stressful. As changes occur in loved ones’ abilities, families experience behavioral issues, communication challenges, and caregiver strain. These can instigate transitions in care routines and strategies, involvement of new people in the care of the loved one, and possible shifts toward long-term care facilities. Working and coping through these transitions can be financially, physically, and emotionally overwhelming for many.
The OC CARES team provides numerous supports and education to caregivers and people living with dementia in Orange County as they navigate through these transitions.
▪ In-home consultation
An occupational therapist and social worker visit families in their home several times to provide personalized consultation, training, education, connection to services, and general support for challenges or transitions they may encounter during the care of their loved one.
▪ Care Partner Respite Program
Five hours of supervised social activity one time per week at our centers in Chapel Hill and Hillsborough. This provides caregivers with respite time as well as presents an opportunity for the team to learn about the person with dementia, which can inform caregiver skills and In-Home Consultation visits.
▪ Social activities and support
We offer Memory Cafés that include monthly social activities and outings specifically designed for people who experience dementia and their caregivers. Regular support groups are also available for caregivers of people with dementia.
▪ Public education
OC CARES provides publicly available training and education related to dementia and dementia care through its Dementia Education Collaborative, Dementia Friendly Business Campaign, and continuing education for professional caregivers and healthcare practitioners.
By providing education, consultation, and support to families, professional caregivers, businesses, and the general community, OC CARES hopes to facilitate the caregiver’s work of caring. OC CARES seeks to build a dementia capable community in which people with dementia and those who care for them live in a caring, safe environment, while doing the things they enjoy through the entirety of the disease.
If you are interested in participating in, receiving, or volunteering for any of the services mentioned above, please call the Orange County Aging Helpline at 919-968- 2087. To learn more about OC CARES, please visit http://nando.com/4a9.
Caring for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementias can be a challenging and overwhelming experience. Because Orange County Department on Aging cares about our families and older adults affected by dementia, we hope to support them in continuing to live safely and joyfully in a dementia capable community.
Ryan Lavalley is a consulting occupational therapist for the Orange County Department on Aging and a member of the OC CARES In-Home Consultation Team.