Caring For Dementia Patients From All Backgrounds

Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia and researchers at the University of Texas Arlington say, historically the African-American community has been underserved and undereducated about the disease.

They set out to change that. 

Noelle Fields and Ling Xu, assistant professors in UTA's School of Social Work, partnered with The Senior Source to develop a training program for Alzheimer's caregivers.

During the month-long training, both family caregivers and volunteer companions worked through nine modules to address issues such as stigma about the disease and mistrust of health professionals.

"In our focus groups, people were ashamed to talk about their loved one having dementia, they'd be perceived as being crazy," said Fields.

The training also included the basic facts of Alzheimer's disease, managing problematic behavior, home safety, community resources, spirituality, coping skills and more.

"This is a disease that does not have any prejudice. It impacts anybody at any income at any neighborhood, and so it's an important thing that we all come together to find out ways to support our family caregivers who are coping with the devastating illness," said Fields.

Robert West underwent training to be the caregiver of his mother Ida.

"That's my mom. I love her. If no one else is going do it, I'll do it cause she did it for me and now it's my time to do it for her," said West.

He says he didn't know much about Alzheimer's Disease until after the course.
Robert says he didn't fully understand what the disease entails..

"There's a lot of things I didn't know that I know now, how to deal with it, how to go about dealing with it," he said.

The Senior Source is a Dallas-based nonprofit that matches older adult volunteers with those who may need companionship through the Senior Companion Program, a federally funded program of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Researchers hope their study will result in more funding to expand the program to more families.

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