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Helping you confront challenges from within your immediate and extended family

One of the biggest challenges to caring for a person living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia is also your biggest ally: your family.

“Not every person in a family deals with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias the same way,” said Katrina Skeval, chief program officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, Central New York Chapter. “Navigating family dynamics is at the center of many of the programs and services we conduct.”

The chapter’s family consultation program was modeled after its care consultation program, which provides care partners a forum to discuss current caregiving needs while planning for the next stages of the disease, but with a more specific focus.

“It differs from our traditional care consultation in a number of ways,” Skeval said. “We develop strategies that address care concerns, but with a specific lens on navigating complex family issues.”

Family consultations are not restricted to times of crisis, notes Alexandra Halstead, the chapter’s family consultation manager and a licensed mental health counselor.
“We work with families at multiple points throughout their caregiving experience,” Halstead said. “So, we often see the different struggles and challenges that affect caregivers and their loved ones living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.”

Family consultation services bring the family together in a safe, facilitated forum to identify and discuss issues of common concern and develop strategies to address them. The meetings, facilitated by Halstead, offer families and care teams the opportunity to confront challenges and frustrations related to caregiving, while identifying themes and appropriate next steps in a group setting.
“The stress of caregiving can often cause heightened emotions and breakdowns in communication between care team members, so we offer an objective look at the situation and discuss what may be helpful in moving forward,” Halstead said. “Ultimately, we focus on how to support and strengthen the care team and improve their overall quality of life.”

The meetings are intended to be one or two times and voluntary, providing solutions-focused assistance. Family Consultation Services are available to any caregiver experiencing familial conflict regarding the care of a person living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. This could include:

  • Different opinions on care methods and setting
  • Different opinions on the severity of the disease
  • Emotional and physical issues impeding quality of care

Families in need of consultation services can contact the Alzheimer’s Association by phone or email. The service is free of charge and made possible by a grant from the New York State Department of Health.