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Blue Ribbon Foundation Supports Education for Families Dealing With Alzheimer’s

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By: Anthony Matrisciano
November 14, 2011

More than 100 at-home caregivers received resources and support

November 14, 2011, Wilkes-Barre, PA — November is recognized as National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and a regional program funded by The Blue Ribbon Foundation of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BCNEPA) has helped dozens of families who provide at-home assistance for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

“According to national statistics, there are nearly 15 million caregivers providing unpaid care to family members or loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia,” said Clayton Jacobs, Program and Outreach Coordinator, Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Pennsylvania Chapter.

According to Jacobs, Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease, and as it progresses, the individual with the disease may require different types of health and personal assistance, or present challenging behaviors and communications difficulties.  Though 75 percent of all persons with the disease are cared for at home, most available training programs are designed for the professional rather than the family caregiver.

The Blue Ribbon Foundation’s $5,600 grant, made in March 2010, has funded the Alzheimer’s Association’s Caregivers Education Series over the past year in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Tioga and Lycoming Counties.  More than 100 family caregivers – many of whom were dealing with a new diagnosis – attended the education sessions about topics such as the basics of Alzheimer’s disease, communication and behavior management, legal issues, and caring for the caregiver.

One local woman who benefited from the education series is Nancy Gallagher of Williamsport.  Gallagher cares for her mother who has dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is always a challenge because most at-home caregivers don’t have training and don’t always know what to expect,” said Gallagher.  “The education program really enlightened me and showed me how I could be a better caregiver as the disease progresses.  I feel more prepared to give my mother what she needs.”

“Individuals who serve as caregivers need resources to help them understand and deal with the affects of the disease on their loved ones, while at the same time maintaining their own health and emotional well-being,” said Cynthia A. Yevich, The Foundation’s executive director.  “By supporting the Alzheimer’s Association’s Caregivers Education Series, we have helped caregivers overcome these difficulties, which in turn helps them provide better care.”

About Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania

Headquartered in Wilkes-Barre, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.  BCNEPA offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to more than 550,000 individuals in 13 counties in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania.  The company’s mission is to provide integrated health care services and products to improve the quality, accessibility and affordability of health care in the populations it serves.

BCNEPA established its private, nonprofit Blue Ribbon Foundation in 2002 to invest in health education and prevention initiatives that produce measurable health improvements and help manage long-term health costs for the residents of northeastern and north central Pennsylvania.