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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens Offers Support Services for Caregivers of Individuals with Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

Learn how a AAA developed a caregiver assistance and education program to support caregivers navigating dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2019 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week, we are focusing on Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens' AASC CARES program. The agency was a 2019 Aging Achievement Award winner in the Caregiving category.
 
Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens' (AASC) Caregiver Assistance & Relief Education Services (CARES) program provides two free in-home counseling sessions to support caregivers who face the behavioral challenges that accompany dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Counselors offer educational materials, follow-up communication and tools to manage dementia's effects, along with community resources to support individuals living with dementia and their caregiver.
 
The AASC CARES program has impacted AASC's community by increasing awareness and understanding of dementia, as well as increasing awareness of community resources that are available to assist caregivers and their loved ones living with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. AASC CARES program counselor Eva Musick shares, “Interacting with the caregivers and feeling like I have made a small difference in their long journey is the most rewarding part of the program. I enjoy providing information and suggestions to the caregivers that help make their lives easier.”
 
Caregivers participating in the AASC CARES program are incredibly grateful for the support, education and interaction this program provides and the knowledge that they are not alone in this journey with their loved one. One caregiver client shares, “Mom has Alzheimer's. I felt lost, called AASC and spoke with Eva. She gave me The 36-Hour Day book and explained what to expect as the disease progresses. Eva suggested PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) and it was a godsend. Knowing that my mom has access to doctors and nurses while she is attending adult day care takes a load off my mind. Eva also suggested connecting with Project Life Saver, which provides a GPS bracelet that will help locate my mom if she gets lost. If not for CARES, Mom would have been in a nursing home a long time ago.”
 
Other caregiver clients report that they appreciate the home visits made by AASC CARES counselors, which provide an opportunity for the counselors to see the caregivers and their loved ones in their home environments and allows counselors to see and understand their world in action.
 
For AAAs interested in developing a similar program, AASC shares that the CARES program is fashioned after a program based on theories of person-environment fit (Progressively Lowered Stress Threshold Model) that encourages caregivers to participate in ongoing education, support, self-care and problem-solving. AASC notes it is imperative to have a case manager with a well-rounded background with an emphasis on counseling serve in the role of program counselor. The counselor should be familiar with community resources and able to work with caregiver clients and their loved ones to connect them to other services needed outside of the program. To encourage referrals to the CARES program, the program counselor can make presentations about the program to local home health agencies and hospital social workers, and form relationships with other organizations.
 
To learn more about AASC's CARES program, contact Regina Sayers, Executive Director, at rsayers@aasc.org.
 
For more information about the 2019 winners, read our press release and check out our book of winners to learn how your agency can implement this or similar programs in your community! You can also listen to our four-part webinar series, n4a Lunchtime Innovations, to hear your peers' secrets to success for these award-winning programs.
 
The 2020 AIA Awards nominations process is now open! Read our nominations process guide and consider submitting some of your programs for this year's awards before the March 6 deadline!

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