Memory Disorders Centers Support Caregivers in Pandemic

Living through a pandemic presents unique challenges to everyone. Whether it is missing life events, working from home, losing a job or having school online, everyone has been affected by this new “normal.”

Some who may be trudging through this unprecedented journey unnoticed are the caregivers of individuals with memory disorders. When social distancing and shelter in place requirements forced the closure of most respite opportunities, suddenly the caregivers’ world shrank to just two people – the caregiver and the one needing care.

In many cases, the support from the Madonna Ptak Center for Alzheimer's and Memory Loss at Morton Plant Hospital has been a lifeline. Funded by a grant from the Foundation for over a decade, the memory disorders center offers a variety of services to diagnose and help treat the patients, but also has multiple resources to help caregivers navigate the best options for the patient and simply to help the caregivers through their journey.

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Celisa Bonner, coordinator at the Madonna Ptak Center for Alzheimer's and Memory Loss at Morton Plant has worked tirelessly through the pandemic to help caregivers cope with the difficulties the changes have brought for them and their loved ones. To adapt to the changing times, the centers moved to telehealth visits for the initial evaluation and conference calls for the support groups.

Jennifer first attended a support group four years ago but thought she didn’t fit in because her husband Michael’s disease was in the early stages. Unfortunately, he progressed quickly, and less than two years ago, she began attending regularly. “It is a relief to have a group of people who do not judge me negatively and who allow me to express my feelings and frustrations,” she said.

Through conference calls, Jennifer has been able to stay in touch with their individual groups. “I look forward to my Monday meetings,’’ Jennifer said. “The group members are open and warm. They share not only problems but suggestions and solutions they've found useful and offer wonderful words of wisdom.”

Celisa understands the difficulties the caregivers have faced and have made herself available through email and phone calls. “Our job is to ask what can we do to help the caregiver,” Celisa said. “In many cases, the isolation has exacerbated the disease process, meaning the patient is declining faster. In other cases, the caregiver is realizing how much care the patient needs.”

The Madonna Ptak Center for Alzheimer's and Memory Loss at Morton Plant Hospital provides comprehensive care to patients with Alzheimer's and other memory loss disorders using a multi-disciplinary approach with the goal of reducing the long-term impact of memory disorders and helping the patient live a more functional life. For more information about our Memory Disorders Clinic or the treatment options discussed in this section, please call (727) 298-6025.

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