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Caregiver support offered locally for memory care

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WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County RSVP has spent years accumulating its list of senior volunteers and matching them with community service projects, but as the needs of its volunteers grows and changes, so too is RSVP.

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Joanne Bartosh, who serves as Nobles County's RSVP coordinator, has in recent years been trained in a variety of aging programs, from bone builders to caregiver support.

One of RSVP's newest initiatives is linking seniors with support systems in the area of Alzheimer's disease and memory care. Thanks to a grant from the Administration on Aging and the Minnesota Board on Aging, RSVP has partnered with Sanford Clinic in Worthington to provide aid to caregivers and families dealing with early stage memory loss.

In October, Bartosh established office hours at Sanford Clinic, 1680 Diagonal Road, from 1 to 4 p.m. each Friday, as a caregiver support coach.

"Anyone can use my services -- they don't have to be a Sanford patient," said Bartosh.

In the memory care program, she works with individuals and families to set goals, find resources and sort through the issues they may be dealing with. Appointments are required, and may be made through either the RSVP office in Worthington or the Sanford Worthington Clinic.

According to caregiving statistics released last month, more than 65 million -- 29 percent of the U.S. population -- provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend an average of 20 hours per week. That assistance helps keep the elderly in their own home longer, saving thousands of dollars in healthcare.

"The ultimate goal is to keep (people) in their own home for as long as possible," said Bartosh. "Sometimes we buy a little time, sometimes we may buy a lot of time."

While there are many advantages to caregiver assistance, it can take its toll on family members -- especially on those working with a senior suffering from memory loss or Alzheimer's. In Minnesota, 7 percent of the state's 65 and older population today suffers from Alzheimer's disease -- a disease expected to grow to 25 percent in that age group by 2025.

Through RSVP's early stage memory loss program, Bartosh has available screening tools that can be used to help affected individuals, their families and caregivers understand the dynamics of memory loss.

"I'm willing to see people struggling with memory issues or caregivers of anyone who needs help sorting out the issues they're dealing with," she said.

Oftentimes, family members struggle with their new role as a caregiver, and Bartosh can provide them with the resources to move through the transition.

In addition to developing a support system for memory care issues, Bartosh is also providing resources these days to help caregivers and their families through the holidays. As people age, they shouldn't be expected to maintain all of the holiday traditions that have been done in the past, and they shouldn't feel guilty for not being able to do everything they once did.

Bartosh encourages the elderly to simplify and not try to "do it all." In addition, families need to understand that their care receiver may have limited energy and shouldn't be expected to do a lot of holiday preparations.

Also, she suggests the elderly write out "to-do" lists and keep them on the refrigerator in the event a family member or friend offers to help do something.

For caregivers, she said they should not forget to set time aside for themselves and "feed their soul."

"Part of the reason caregivers get depleted is they never go to the doctor for themselves," Bartosh said. "I think the holidays bring more stress."

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Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7330
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