Tens of millions of people are living with dementia and its devastating consequences — and at least as many family members are living with the financial, emotional and mental impact of caregiving for loved ones as they cognitively and physically decline.
Whatever pace at which dementia progresses and whatever age its onset, it is heartbreaking for someone to lose their identity. Over time it also becomes increasingly demanding for families to provide care for their loved ones with dementia.
Every year the Memory Disorders Clinic at Ascension Medical Group Illinois - Brain & Spine Elk Grove Village supports more than 1,300 patients and families, 300 of whom are new patients. The clinic’s team provides comprehensive exams and personalized treatment plans including pharmacological interventions.
“The clinic also provides continuous support to patients and their families as they transition from the early to late stages of dementia, necessitating more intricate care,” said Concetta Forchetti, MD, PhD, Neurologist and Medical Director for Cognitive Disorder and Clinical Research. “This is facilitated by our multidisciplinary team.”
This team includes neurologists, neuropsychologists, health psychologists, an advanced practice nurse and a clinical social worker — and thanks to the generosity of donors to the Ascension Illinois Foundation, the incredibly important work they do is supported by philanthropy.
Comprehensive care for cognitive disorders
When a diagnosis of dementia is first made, most people lack information about the brain disease and lack community resources that could help them provide a safe, caring environment for the patient. In these challenging situations, doctors do not have the specialized social work skills or training to provide the kind of support most families need.
That is why, since 2018, the memory care team has offered social work, education and support services. These additional services have profoundly improved the level of care families receive and the clinic has become a place where the full spectrum of dementia care is addressed, from diagnosis to education, treatment and support.
Over the past three years, social work, education and support services provided through the clinic have made a direct impact for more than 600 individuals and families. Hundreds more people received indirect support through referrals made to community services including adult day service, in-home service, senior centers and senior living, assistive technologies, exercise programs, nutritional programs and public benefits, legal services, palliative care, transportation options, caregiver support groups and more.
“We provide recommendations on how the clinic and other resources can guide and support them, both in the present and in the years to come,” Dr. Forchetti said.
Giving families “a new sense of hope”
Today, philanthropy is needed to ensure that these services can continue to be provided by the memory care team so that patients and caregivers can receive the support they need navigating their experience with dementia including:
Psychosocial assessments and dementia care education including healthy lifestyle interventions, behavioral issues and communication strategies
Care and support for caregivers, helping explore care options and planning, and providing referrals to community resources.
Family consultations and a supportive space for patients and families to openly discuss their concerns, share their experiences and receive personalized guidance.
Caregiver education and support programs that equip caregivers with the knowledge, skills and resources they need to provide the best possible care.
Respite care for caregivers to recharge, rejuvenate and gain much-needed rest, enabling them to maintain their own well-being while continuing to provide the utmost care for their loved ones.
The family of one patient shared their thoughts, saying, “We feel incredibly fortunate to have this team on this journey with us. It’s not every day that someone takes time to truly connect with our family member, and it’s been remarkable to witness how much more at ease he became after speaking with you.”
Not only did the social work intervention and support benefit their family member who has dementia, but it also helped them reframe their perspectives to focus on the positives and find ways to cherish each moment.
“Our outlook on life, even in the face of this illness, has taken on a new sense of hope,” they said. “Thank you so much.”
Learn how you can support the Memory Disorders Clinic at Ascension Medical Group Illinois - Brain & Spine Elk Grove Village by contacting Beth Rottman at Elizabeth.Rottman@ascension.org or 708-473-1252.