By Lin Sue Cooney

Family caregivers often feel overwhelmed, anxious and isolated while they are caring for a person with dementia. They want to keep their loved one at home for as long as possible but wonder how to make it all work. Thanks to a federal grant, Hospice of the Valley can now help these families at no charge.

The Administration for Community Living has awarded funds to 12 agencies nationwide to help families living with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. The three-year grant allows Hospice of the Valley to significantly expand its dementia support program, which provides home visits to help caregivers with education, emotional support, behavior management strategies, medications, respite, placement options and living wills. Families also have 24/7 phone support with a Hospice of the Valley nurse, social worker or medical director Dr. Gillian Hamilton.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be able to help more families who so desperately need this support,” Hamilton says. “Dementia is a vulnerable and challenging journey and no one should travel it alone.”

This program serves those at any stage and with any type of dementia, and — equally important — their family caregivers.

“I don’t know what I would do without this kind of support,” confides Christiane Cole, who is caring for her husband Muryl. “I have a whole team of people helping me understand what to do as my husband’s dementia progresses. But they also take care of me, so I don’t feel so alone.”

Hospice of the Valley’s commitment to superb dementia care also can be seen in Phoenix, where a comprehensive campus is now under construction to provide full-spectrum services to those with early, moderate and advanced dementia. Offering assisted living, an inpatient unit, intergenerational adult and childcare centers and an education center, this unique facility will serve as a community resource for families struggling to cope with the challenges of dementia.

“Our goal is to help those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and their caregivers live at home with high quality of life,” says Executive Director Debbie Shumway. “This campus and this grant will help so many families achieve that with confidence and peace of mind.”

The grant also allows Hospice of the Valley to deepen collaborations with a number of local organizations to create programs with a special focus on people with dementia living alone; those with distressed behaviors; and those with developmental disabilities like Down syndrome, who may develop Alzheimer’s at an early age. These partners include: the Alzheimer’s Association, Dementia Caregiver Alliance, Duet: Partners In Health and Aging, Senior Adult Independent Living Program, Tempe Fire Medical Rescue, University of Arizona Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities, and Valleylife. It also provides funding to train a dementia-capable workforce to better serve the rapidly rising number of people who will be diagnosed — a 43% increase in Arizona by 2025.

To enroll or get more information on Hospice of the Valley’s no-cost dementia caregiver support program, call 602-636-6363, email DementiaCare@hov.org, or visit hov.org/our-care/dementia-care/dementia-education.

Lin Sue Cooney is community engagement director for Hospice of the Valley.