Early Stage Cognasium: An Alzheimer’s Caregiver's Supportive Services Program
It is universally believed that living with dementia is a negative experience based on disintegration, degeneration and diminishment. This translates to a stress-burden model of caregiving. Conversely, our early stage caregiver support program focuses on the remaining strengths and abilities of the person with dementia which often outweigh the losses. The caregiver develops an Individualized Cognasium Plan (ICP) for the loved one with dementia. Cognasium is to the brain what the traditional fitness center gymnasium is to the body. The ICP focuses on appropriate exercise, proper nutrition, cognitive activity and social engagement. The caregiver is trained to administer this program in the home. The care recipient regularly attends a Cognasium Support Group with other early stage persons while the caregiver attends a Caregiver Support Group that focuses on disease awareness, problem-solving, mutual support and respite. Currently, 70 dyads (caregiver and care recipient) or family care systems have enrolled since the program’s inception in October, 2008. By December, 2009, 300 dads or family systems will be enrolled.
Cognasium is perceived as hopeful and proactive by caregivers and early stage individuals alike. Research supports the Cognasium model of focusing on strengths in early stage dementia. The March, 2009, Journal of Nursing Gerontology describes how (1) the early stage brain when challenged reorganizes after damage and experiences functional improvements, (2) person-centered activities afford better symptom management tools to caregivers, and (3) such programs support the need for an expanding evidence base.
Participants are screened for enrollment, mid-screened at 3 months and post-screened every six months. Successful outcomes reported thus far include: (1) reduce care-related stress and depression for the caregiver, (2) improved self-efficacy and autonomy of persons with early stage dementia, (3) increased satisfaction with the primary care physician, and (4) reduced crises and subsequent utilization of emergency services.
To learn about the Program, contact Allison Richman in Logan at 435-752-7242 (Alzheimer’s Resource Center at the Bear River Agency on Aging); Sylvia Brunisholz in Salt Lake City at 801-265-1944 ( Main Office)
For information about Cognasium or help at anytime, call the statewide toll-free Helpline at 800-272-3900. This is a 24-hour, 7 days a week helpline.