Over the last year, my sister and I helped our mom move to Madison from Rockford, Ill. where she lived for the last 40 years. She’s 88 and has an array of health concerns; we all wanted to live closer together. While we knew that she was having some short-term memory issues, we didn’t realize until she moved that she had dementia, and perhaps Alzheimer’s.

caregiverWe’ve learned a lot in the last year. Given the prevalence of dementia (estimated to impact 20 – 50 percent of people over age 85, according to the National Institutes of Health), I want to pass along some of the resources we’ve found with the hope of helping others.

Alzheimer’s Association – We had a lot to learn, and the Alzheimer’s Association’s website was our first stop. The website contains lots of background information about the disease and what we might expect. I also found the locations of nearby support groups, where I met some wonderful volunteers and other caregivers. I received practical advice which helped me prioritize the most important steps to take. First and foremost was getting a new Durable Power of Attorney and Power of Attorney for Health Care executed. My mom had taken care of this many years ago – in Illinois – but now that she was living in Wisconsin, these were no longer valid.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) – With my mom’s cognitive abilities in decline, we needed to act quickly to get her legal affairs in order. I remembered that our EAP Program includes some basic legal advice and so called the service used by The Alliance. Amazingly, within two hours, my mom and I were able to meet with an attorney and had both documents redone by the end of that day. What a relief!

WI Medigap Helpline – My mom’s Medicare Part D coverage wasn’t valid in Wisconsin, so we needed to find another option for this as well. I went out to the Medicare.gov site, thinking that with my background and knowledge, I’d have no problem finding her an appropriate prescription drug plan. Wrong.

I found the website confusing and frustrating. A friend suggested I call the Medigap Helpline, which is sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. What a godsend!  I spoke with one of the specialists who told me what information I needed to provide. Within a few days of receiving my mom’s medication list, I received a side-by-side comparison of the three plans that were the best match, along with a recommendation regarding the least expensive option. With me on the line, he called the plan and got my mom enrolled that day.

Dementia-Friendly Employer Tool Kit – The State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services recognizes the epidemic that Alzheimer’s disease is becoming, and the need to plan accordingly as baby boomers age. One of their latest efforts is a toolkit for employers to help employees who are caring for a family member. While some of the resources are specific to Wisconsin, the information and tools are more adaptable and could benefit all of our members.

 

Understanding Dementia:

Cheryl DeMars

Cheryl DeMars

President & CEO at The Alliance
Cheryl DeMars joined The Alliance in 1992, assuming several roles before becoming CEO in December 2006. Cheryl works with the Board of Directors and senior leadership team to establish the strategic direction of the cooperative.

Cheryl participates in a number of national and regional initiatives that align with The Alliance’s mission of controlling costs, improving quality and engaging individuals in their health. She is a board member and former chair of the National Business Coalition on Health. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the board of the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality.

Prior to joining The Alliance, Cheryl was a program manager at Meriter Hospital in Madison. She earned a master's degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Read blog posts by Cheryl.
Cheryl DeMars

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