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Volunteers adapting to virtual technology, helping with dementia support to Michiganders

Volunteers adapting to virtual technology, helping with dementia support to Michiganders
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April 24, 2020
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As COVID-19 continues to present new challenges, the Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Chapter has shifted its delivery model thanks to the willingness of volunteer facilitators to adapt to new technologies and continue on in the fight against Alzheimer’s and other dementia.
 
The Michigan Chapter moved to virtual and dial-in platforms in March to offer residents across the state its much-needed support groups and education programs.
 
“Volunteers are the heart of the Alzheimer’s Association,” said Jennifer Lepard, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Chapter. “They have embraced virtual and dial-in platforms, and we are grateful for their continued work in helping move our mission forward as we serve Michiganders during this difficult time.”
 
According to longtime volunteer facilitator Cindy Beller, whose husband passed from Lewy body dementia, adapting to virtual offerings was not necessarily something she was interested in doing.
 
“I initially didn’t want to do virtual because I’m an in-person person,” Beller said. “I’m glad I rose above my concerns and did it, though. It’s worked out well. People in the group really seem to enjoy seeing each other and connecting. It’s very worthwhile to me, too.”
 
Jim Mangi, whose wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 13 years ago, has served as a dementia activist and speaker for many years. Since the pandemic, however, his in-person engagements have halted and he’s adjusted to virtual technology as well. He’s a community educator for the Alzheimer’s Association, providing education on a range of topics including Understanding and Responding to Behaviors and Living with Alzheimer’s Early Stage.
 
“The virtual sessions are a new experience for me but they’ve worked out really well so far,” Mangi said. “I believe in making the best out of any situation, and these technologies can help us all feel more supported and connected right now.”
 
While the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the health of millions in this country and around the world, the novel coronavirus presents unique challenges for the 190,000 Michiganders living with Alzheimer’s and their 518,000 caregivers.
 
“Public health strategies aimed at limiting contact with others are nearly impossible for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, who rely on family caregivers and others to live their daily lives,” Lepard said. “And caregivers – who may be more likely used to isolating and staying home already – are navigating even more demanding and emotional circumstances.”
 
Alzheimer’s Association support groups provide a safe place for caregivers, family and friends of persons with dementia to develop a support system, exchange practical information on caregiving challenges, possible solutions and community resources, talk through issues and ways of coping, and share feelings, needs and concerns.
 
Education programs provide insight, information and tips for families and individuals facing Alzheimer’s, as well as community members and health care professionals.
 
In addition to support groups and education programs, the Alzheimer’s Association is available to individuals 24/7 for around-the-clock care and support at 800.272.3900 and alz.org.

Alzheimer's Association

The Alzheimer's Association leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.™ For more information, visit www.alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.

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