Posted: March 22, 2019
By Phil Castle, The Business Times
Joni Karp knows from personal experience the toll dementia takes not only on people afflicted with it – but also on the people who care for them.
Karp has worked in facilities and provided in-home care. Moreover, she cared for her mother.
Patients need services that accommodate their individual needs and the progression of the disease, Karp said. Caregivers need support and respite. Ultimately, they could need to let someone else take on their responsibilities and return to their roles as family members or friends, she said.
The situation becomes all the more pressing, Karp said, as an increasing proportion of the aging population in the United States is afflicted with dementia and a growing number of caregivers face the stress of providing care while also working.
There’s help, Karp says, in a Grand Junction facility that offers services to people with dementia and support to their caregivers.
Karp works as sales and marketing director at Cappella of Grand Junction, an assisted-living and memory support community that opened in 2017.
The facility located near where Horizon Drive slants into Seventh Street offers 40 assisted-living apartments on the second floor and 26 memory support apartments in a secured area on the first floor. All of the apartments feature kitchenettes and full bathrooms.
Services for residents in memory support depend on the level of care they need, Karp said. “It’s not a cookie cutter-type situation. It’s an individualized program.”
Care is based on an initial assessment and ongoing monitoring, Karp said. Moreover, the staff makes time to learn about residents and their likes and dislikes. “We know what’s going on with each person.”
Caring for people with dementia requires changing and adaptive techniques to promote their strengths while addressing challenges and frustrations, she said.
Cappella of Grand Junction also offers programs for residents with dementia, including interactive painting classes called Memories in the Making. Creating artwork stimulates memory and allows residents to express themselves, Karp said. “They flourish with the program. It’s just beautiful.”
Residents also can feed and interact with the chickens kept in the secure courtyard in what’s been dubbed chicken therapy, Karp said. That’s been especially popular with residents from rural areas who grew up on farms and cared for chickens.
Monthly Memory Café events are open not only to residents and their families and friends, but also people with dementia and their caregivers in the Grand Valley. The events offer food and entertainment in a safe environment and provide caregivers a break in their routines and a chance to socialize with other caregivers, Karp said.
It’s important for the people who care for those with dementia to also care for themselves, she said.
According to reports by the Journal of General Internal Medicine and AARP, caregivers face isolation and depression. Moreover, their responsibilities can affect their performance at work. More than a third of the more than 5,000 caregivers in one study reported six or more symptoms of depression.
Karp expects the situation to become more acute as people live longer and more of them suffer memory loss and dementia. By one estimate, half of Americans care for older adults and a third of them care for someone with dementia.
In the Grand Valley, seniors comprise a larger proportion of the population, she said.
Like many caregivers, Karp said she was reluctant at first to ask for help in caring for her mother and believed she could handle her responsibilities on her own. “I thought I was super human.”
But that leads to burnout and potentially worse, she said.
Ultimately, caregivers could need to delegate their duties so they can return to their roles as spouses, children or friends. That way, they can enjoy the time they have left with their loved ones, Karp said. “Take those little gifts when you can.”
Read the full story on The Business Times website.
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