Approximately 500,000 Canadians currently suffer from dementia. This number is expected to double over the next 30 years. A diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is very difficult for patients and families, with many family members assuming the role of caregiver for their loved one. This task is often far more challenging than one might anticipate — something a special program at Mount Sinai Hospital is helping to change.
Photo of Dr. Joel Sadavoy
Research demonstrates that family caregivers are at higher risk for stress-related illnesses, experience burnout and loss of productivity in their jobs and demonstrate a rate of depression up to 40 per cent higher than the general population. The Cyril & Dorothy, Joel & Jill Reitman Centre for Alzheimer’s Support and Training at Mount Sinai Hospital is Canada’s first comprehensive program delivering unique skill-building interventions for family members who are caring for loved ones with dementia at home.
The Reitman Centre CARERS (Coaching, Advocacy, Respite, Education, Relationship and Simulation) Program is a 10-week, targeted and tailored program developed to address the complex mix of factors that affect caregivers’ ability to cope and adapt to this challenging role.
Led by Dr. Joel Sadavoy, Director of the Reitman Centre and Sam and Judy Pencer and Family Chair in Applied General Psychiatry, the program is open to any family caregiver living with and/or caring for a person with dementia, and is free of charge. The program uses standardized patients — actors trained to simulate real-life situations — guided by expert clinical coaches so that caregivers can learn how to deal with common challenging situations that arise while caring for their loved ones.
For Heather, a caregiver to two parents with Alzheimer’sdisease, the CARERS Program was a life saver. She had been caring for her parents for years when a sudden change in her mother’s physical condition coupled with the emergence of her father’s full-blown outbursts made the situation unmanageable. “This Centre truly honours the depth to which this disease disrupts one’s life,” says Heather. “They honed in on exactly what I needed emotionally at one of my most difficult and vulnerable times. My life has been monumentally changed becauseof Mount Sinai.”.
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