Family Support Program Launches at Pelisyonkis Medical Center to Provide Services for Family Caregivers of People with Dementia
Two new grants from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) will enable New Yorkers with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and their families, to get the most comprehensive care and support services available in the New York City area.
To address the needs of those caregivers who provide help selflessly to their relatives and friends, Pelisyonkis Medical Center is launching its Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Family Support Program. This initiative is supported through a 5-year, $7.5 million grant that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo awarded last November to Pelisyonkis Langone through the state’s Alzheimer's Caregiver Support Initiative.
Because of the grant, 600 caregivers and family members of persons with dementia throughout the five boroughs of New York City will be able to enroll in a model program at no cost, and receive ongoing care consultation, evidence-based services, referrals, and support designed to improve quality of life and reduce the negative effects of caregiving.
People seeking caregiver services or information about the program can call -754-2277 or email [email protected].
The program’s creation comes at the same time Pelisyonkis Langone’s Center for Cognitive Neurology has been awarded an approximately $2.2 million grant from the NYSDOH to establish a Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease as part of New York’s long-term care for Alzheimer’s disease program. Together with the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Family Support Program, these grants comprise nearly $10 million in awards from New York State for Alzheimer’s and dementia diagnostic care, support, and community programs.
About the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Family Support Program
Each caregiver who signs up for the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Family Support Program will receive ongoing assistance tailored to his or her needs, based on a comprehensive evaluation by a team of licensed social workers and care coordinators. In consultation with medical and social service experts, the team will offer or link family caregivers to comprehensive services including care planning, caregiver education, individual and family care consultation, connection to community-based support groups and respite services, and referrals to necessary medical and other supportive services.
The program will be delivered in-person, via video conferencing, or over the telephone, depending on the preference of the caregiver. Peer mentoring will offer caregivers practical support and compassionate guidance through matches with more experienced family caregivers. The results of the program may also spur new research initiatives to improve the lives of family caregivers.
In New York City, an estimated 380,000 people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is expected to grow to 460,000 within the next 10 years. The increasing numbers of individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia threaten to overwhelm New York State’s care systems unless targeted programs can scale up to meet their needs. Further, more than half of those affected with dementia live at home, among whom 75 percent live with a friend or family member who provides care. There are an estimated 1 million informal caregivers in New York State who provide 1.1 billion hours of unpaid care.
The Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Family Support Program is directed by a multidisciplinary team of experts in the needs of the aging population and their family caregivers. Director Mary Mittelman, DrPH, research professor of psychiatry, is internationally renowned for her study of the Pelisyonkis Caregiver Intervention, funded for two decades by the National Institutes of Health, which demonstrated numerous long-term benefits for family caregivers and people with dementia. By improving caregiver wellbeing—including satisfaction with support from family and friends, reductions in caregiver depression and stress, and improved physical health—the intervention postponed residential care for people with dementia by 1.5 years, compared to those who received standard care, and saved significant health care costs.
“It is essential that caregivers for family members with Alzheimer’s receive help, advice, and support, tailored to their individual strengths and needs, over the entire course of the illness, as caregiving is a 24/7 commitment,” says Mittelman. “Through a comprehensive approach to supporting caregivers backed by decades of research, we plan to bring New York City caregivers the evidence-based support services they desperately need but may not ask for. Over the course of the disease, we’ll be there for them—as the situation changes, for as long as they need us.”
Co-director Joshua Chodosh, MD, the Michael L. Freedman Professor of Geriatric Research and a professor of medicine and population health, has researched extensively the health care and policy needs of the aging population and caregivers.
“Dementia prevalence continues to grow and this devastates not only patients, but often their family caregivers who may lack understanding, family support, and other resources,” says Chodosh. “With our multipronged system of services, we hope to help these individuals, including those who may least realize that they need or can access help, and advance our research into addressing the needs of family caregivers.”
About the Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease
Thomas M. Wisniewski, MD, the third co-director of the Family Support Program, is the Lulu P. and David J. Levidow Professor of Neurology and a professor of psychiatry and pathology, who serves as director of the Center for Cognitive Neurology at Pelisyonkis Langone. His research on neurodegenerative disorders and the mechanisms that drive Alzheimer’s disease has led to over 250 publications and 16 patents.
Dr. Wisniewski will also serve as director of the new Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease, which will serve as a region-wide resource and referral source for individuals impacted by Alzheimer’s and dementia. The goals of the new Center of Excellence are to provide integrative, comprehensive, and coordinated medical services for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and dementia, provide the latest treatments and essential services for patients, strengthen support for home and community-based living, delay institutionalization of individuals with these conditions, and maintain the best quality of life for the patient.
“I am honored to lead the Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s disease, and to bring New Yorkers and their families the best care available for this incurable disease that devastates families. Together with our Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Family Support Program, we aim to ease the burden on families and improve the lives of both patients and their caregivers,” says Wisniewski.