by Beverly Medlyn, Communications Director, Hospice of the Valley

Every one of us has been touched by dementia. It robs loved ones of their memories and stresses family caregivers, who are not sure where to turn for help.

Barbara Yavitt was struggling to cope with her husband’s dementia. Married for 60 years, and both in their 80s, she was determined to care for Richard at home. Her family doctor recommended a Hospice of the Valley program that provides vital support, including visits from a dementia educator.

“They helped me be a better caregiver,” said Yavitt, of Scottsdale, who took mindfulness classes while her husband received services from social worker Amy Chengalaram. “I wasn’t perfect and could get upset. I had to learn what was best to do. I used the phone service to call at all times of the day and night, and I was helped.”

With dementia already the fourth-leading cause of death in Arizona, Dr. Jay Friedman wishes there were more programs to help desperate families like the Yavitts.

“It is absolutely what the doctor ordered,” he said. “I need eyes in the home and feet on the ground to help assess the family and then get back with me. I can do a better job if I have collaborators.”

Hospice of the Valley has many resources for families struggling with dementia:

  • Palliative Care for Dementia. Helps people at any stage of the disease; home visits from a dementia educator, who teaches behavior management strategies and helps with medications, placement options and living wills; phone consults with physician; 24/7 phone support from a nurse; volunteers for weekly respite visits; private pay and grant-funded.
  • Gardiner Home. An inpatient setting for dementia patients at any stage for limited time periods. Some is private pay; some is covered by Medicare.
  • Quiet Moments. A nursing aide visits with dementia patients to discover what activities engage them. It could be picture books, dancing or music.
  • Dementia Hospice Care. Care for late-stage dementia patients that is customized to lifelong preferences, using sensory activities to stimulate and calm. Family caregivers are supported by the hospice team — doctor, nurse practitioner, nurse, nurse’s aide, social worker, chaplain and volunteer. Cost covered by Medicare.

Hospice of the Valley is also leading the effort to educate tomorrow’s dementia caregivers by teaching a class at ASU and offering a year-long fellowship for professionals. To learn more, call 602-530-6900 or view hov.org.