Haida Gwaii caregivers sought for new program helping them cope with dementia

  • Dec. 3, 2010 7:00 a.m.

Submitted by Dr. Penny MacCourt, UVic–An innovative educational program starting in early January will provide caregiving family members from Haida Gwaii the opportunity to explore the loss and grief issues associated with dementia.”There is relatively little information about grief, or how to address it, associated with progressive cognitive decline or dementia,” said project leader Dr. Penny MacCourt, of the Centre on Aging at University of Victoria. “Unattended caregiver grief can compound other stressors and increase caregiver distress and negative health consequences.”The new Coping with Transitions program will connect caregivers from the islands with a skilled registered coach with extensive knowledge and experience in counselling the caregivers of people with a dementia. Coaching is being offered in both online and telephone group formats. “The group formats allow participants to share experiences and to learn from each other,” said Dr. MacCourt. An online group will run Tuesdays from Jan. 4 to Feb. 15 from 7 – 8:30 p.m. Two telephone groups will also run. The first takes place Tuesdays from 10:15 – 11:45 a.m., beginning on Jan. 4 and running through Feb. 15. The second runs Wednesdays from Jan. 12 through Feb. 23 from 1 – 2:30 p.m. Interested residents must pre-register for by contacting Dr. MacCourt at 1-877-244-0419. She will explain the project, answer any questions, and provide assessment forms required before the first meeting.While in the program, participants will explore the loss and grief issues of the caregiving experience.”The dementia journey requires ongoing adjustment to many changes over a long period of time that result in feelings of loss,” said Dr. MacCourt.”You are witnessing the progression of your family member’s dementia. The progression results in many changes: in your relationship, in shared activities, in roles and responsibilities, in dreams and plans for the future, and in living circumstances, to name just a few.”The goals of Coping with Transitions are to identify tools and strategies for weathering the losses and are provide to a greater number of options for caregivers to better meet their needs.”We will be evaluating how helpful this educational program is to caregivers”, she said, “Increased access to support will benefit them and may delay the need for placement for their family members with dementia.”The program is supported by the Alzheimer Society of Canada.