Thursday, April 7, 2011

VA REACHing out to Caregivers

The Department of Veterans Affairs is pleased with the success of their REACH VA pilot program to help caregivers of veterans with Alzheimer’s and plans to expand the program nationally. By relieving caregiver stress, the veterans receive better care at home.

The REACH program provided caregivers:

• Twelve in-home visits and telephone counseling sessions
• Five telephone support group sessions
• A Caregiver Guide with forty-eight behavioral and stress topics
• Safety and behavior management education
• Training for health and well being

The caregivers who had the benefit of these program reported they were less depressed, not as frustrated, and were less burdened on a daily basis with caregiving duties. Caregivers also reported fewer dementia-related behaviors with the veteran under their care.

I applaud the VA for recognizing the benefits of taking care of the caregiver. If your loved one with dementia is a veteran, you should check into the REACH VA program.

If your loved one is not a veteran, please contact your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter. They, too, provide training and support for caregivers.

The five core services of an Alzheimer’s Association chapter:

1. Information and Referral
2. Care consultation
3. Support Groups
4. Safety Services
5. Education

Details on these services can be found at

As a caregiver, my lifeline was the partnership I formed with my local chapter. Through their educational programs I gained confidence as a caregiver, knowing I had the benefit of expert knowledge. I received respite funds to help defray the cost of in-home care. At support group I learned from the facilitators and from the experiences of other caregivers. Through my local chapter I registered Jim with Safe Return. I pored over every newsletter the chapter sent out to learn about new treatments and just to find out what was going on with other caregivers.

The VA has taken a giant step in the right direction to REACH out to caregivers. Visit to learn more about this program.

Caring for a person with dementia can be overwhelming. The health and wellbeing of the caregiver is crucial to keep our loved ones at home as long as possible. By knowing and using the resources available in your community, you will be a better caregiver.

Copyright © April 2011 L. S. Fisher
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