Program targets families of Alzheimer’s patients

Cheryl Kinney

BY PATRICIA CORRIGAN, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

More than 5.4 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number may nearly triple by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.  Alzheimer’s is now the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and about one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

“Based on data from a study done in 2014, some 11,050 local Jewish households were identified as ‘senior’ households, and from that we might expect 1,215 families are facing Alzheimer’s,” said Cheryl Kinney, director of client services for the Alzheimer’s Association’s St. Louis Chapter, the St. Louis Jewish community  

 This month, the Alzheimer’s Association is partnering with the Jewish Community Center to offer two days of care consultations, opportunities for families to meet with a social worker for help coping with Alzheimer’s. The private sessions are free, but registration is required. 

Consultations are available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Adult Day Center at the J’s Staenberg Family Complex, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 27 in Conference Meeting Room A at the J’s Marilyn Fox Building. To register, call 1-800-272-3900. 

“Early intervention is crucial,” said Kinney, 54. “Over time, Alzheimer’s disease is financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting for caregivers. We help families build a care team.” 

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Kinney made time recently to talk about care consultations. For more on the work of the Alzheimer’s Assn. in the Jewish community, visit http://bit.ly/alz-stl.

 

Care consultations are available for families coping with Alzheimer’s, from prediagnosis to end-of-life issues. Talk a bit about the sessions. 

We provide individualized guidance and support for people with memory loss and for the family caregivers. Usually, a social worker spends 60 to 90 minutes addressing a family’s specific needs and concerns.

 

What kinds of issues come up?

A consultation could focus on warning signs and symptoms of dementia. A family member may ask how to get a diagnosis, or what to do if mom refuses to go for testing. We may focus on safety concerns. People often ask how they will know when it’s time to take the car keys away from a person with memory loss, and how to do that. Conflicts in the family come up, too.

 

Can you give an example? 

Sometimes, one family member will remark that that dad would be mad if he knew the consultation was even taking place. We also do a lot of coaching for adult children trying to determine when to step in. If one parent is caring for the other, it’s not always clear how to help support both. 

 

What about discussions about care options?

We don’t do care management, but we can talk about different options and how to pay for them. People need to make decisions early on about legal and financial issues, and we like to include the person with memory loss in the discussions whenever possible.

 

Is it possible to have more than one care consultation? 

Yes. What a person with Alzheimer’s will need later differs from what they need today, so we encourage additional appointments. We can help with everything along the disease continuum. 

 

The St. Louis Chapter has built partnerships with the St. Louis Rabbinical Association and several congregations to better serve the Jewish community regarding education about Alzheimer’s. What is the status of the project? 

Historically, many families turn to their faith communities as a place for respite and healing, so four years ago, we started identifying people to serve as connections back to the Alzheimer’s Association. Today, B’nai Amoona, Central Reform Congregation, Shaare Emeth, Kol Rinah and Nusach Hari B’nai Zion participate in our Faith Ambassador Program, which includes an additional 135 faith communities in the metropolitan area. We want people to know that the Alzheimer’s Association empowers families. 

For more on the work of the Alzheimer’s Association in the Jewish community, visit bit.ly/alz-stl.

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