Health beat: Caring for those with dementia

  • Article by: WARREN WOLFE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 24, 2012 - 6:22 PM

More families then ever before are providing care to elders, because of the rising number of aging people with dementia, a University of Minnesota expert says.

And even though they have access to far more services and information than 20 years ago, most families still are confounded when they begin giving care after a diagnosis of dementia -- uncertain how to proceed, what services might help or where to get advice.

Joe Gaugler is studying how caregivers can be more effective -- providing better care while reducing their stress. On June 2, he will present a free, all-day workshop at the U, expected to draw about 300 caregivers.

"Families pay a very large cost when they provide care -- out-of-pocket costs, lost jobs, even poor health from the stress," said Gaugler, associate professor in the School of Nursing and editor-in-chief for the Journal of Applied Gerontology. "Education and training can help the manage the stress better and provide better care."

A state effort to create an online scorecard for assisted-living facilities, home health agencies and other services -- similar to the current Nursing Home Report Card -- will help, Gaugler said, especially if it includes a tool to help families match the services with their own needs.

A 2012 Alzheimer's Association report estimates that about 241,000 caregivers in Minnesota provided more than $3.3 billion worth of unpaid care last year for 94,000 people with dementia but also spent nearly $150 million to treat their own added health problems from stress.

Gaugler's workshop, "Caring for a Person with Memory Loss," will focus on common care challenges; how day care programs may help; and how to better understand and communicate respectfully with those who have dementia.

The conference is 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 2, at the Mayo Memorial Auditorium, 420 Delaware St. SE., Minneapolis. It is free, with lunch, but there is a fee to park in a nearby ramp. For more information or to register, go to www.bit.ly/z24TrC or call 612-626-9515.

wolfe@startribune.com. • 612-673-7253

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