- Associated Press - Sunday, January 15, 2017

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - At Edgewood Vista in Minot, residents with dementia along with their caregivers and family members are receiving unique support.

For the residents, interactive life stations designed to help memory recall are found throughout the assisted living center while support groups for caregivers is available as well.

Jodi Keller, memory care manager at Edgewood Vista, describes the resources available to residents and family.

“As a corporation, Edgewood Vista has a well-known history of providing dementia care,” Keller said. “Our residents receive a lot of one-on-one support and their activities are geared towards their individual needs. Each activity is specific for cognitive loss.”

“Throughout our memory care building are different themed areas geared to the interest of each individual,” Keller said. “We have a workshop, a business station that features typewriters, a childcare area along with a beauty station that is filled with scarves and jewelry. In addition to those stations, we have a country pantry as well.”

When the residents touch the dishes from the country pantry or see the typewriter inside the business station, Keller hopes to see residents regain a personal connection or recall a memory that was taken away by dementia, the Minot Daily News (http://bit.ly/2hZzQiq ) reported.

“The life stations are hands-on and promote interactive activities,” Keller said. “The activities can be self-directed or centered around a particular structured activity.”

In addition to helping residents with dementia lead a life of dignity, Edgewood Vista also seeks to aid the caregivers and families as well.

“Being a caregiver can be very exhausting,” Conroy said. “When families come here, I tell them you can go back to being the daughter, son, husband or wife. If you’re an 80-year-old man or woman caring for your spouse, you’re doing that 24 hours a day. Chances are you’re not getting much sleep between getting the laundry done and handling the cooking as well as cleaning.”

The toll of being a caregiver can have a high cost both emotionally and physically.

“The mortality rate for caregivers is 50 percent higher than for non-caregivers,” Conroy said. “Often times, the person with the dementia diagnoses will outlive their caregiver because of the emotional and physical exhaustion experienced by the caregiver. Caregivers have needs but they tend to ignore themselves when taking care of others.”

After a caregiver relinquishes their role, it’s common for feelings of depression, guilt and loneliness to occur.

This aftermath of emotions is described as ambiguous grief.

“It takes time,” Conroy said. “Most people believe that once you don’t have the caregiver role anymore, you can do so many activities again. However, in all actuality, being a caregiver is all the person has done 24 hours a day. The caregiver has performed this role for years so they don’t know how to fill the time anymore.”

For individuals who are battling ambiguous grief, Edgewood Vista has a caregiver support group that is open to the public and facilitated by specially trained personnel.

“Visiting with Jodi or participating in a support group that talks about healthy ways to fill time are very helpful,” Conroy said. “Getting support is important because it allows the former caregiver to learn how to enjoy their day without feeling guilty about giving up their role. Any support group is helpful because it allows a person to reconnect with their life before being a caregiver while making new connections with people going through similar experiences.”

While attending support groups or having individualized meetings with Keller, family members and former caregivers receive information about available resources from the Alzheimer’s Association along with set times for personal visits.

“Their anxiety of caregivers significantly declines and they begin to focus on their quality of life,” Keller said. “We really feel there is a quality of life for the person diagnosed with dementia and there is also a quality of life for the caregivers. Everyone’s journey with dementia is both challenging and unique.”

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Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com

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