Today, it's estimated that more than 250,000 New Yorkers are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias. More than half continue to live at home, most with a friend or family member providing care. Yet even with the rising rates and awareness of the condition, many family caregivers struggle in finding information, access to services and direct support.
Caring for a loved one is an incredible experience -- both burdensome and rewarding -- but many caregivers fail to recognize their own needs or seek help, or often feel guilty in doing so.
Enter PSS, a multi-service agency that provides services and caregiver support for older New Yorkers. The agency runs the Circle of Care program, a comprehensive program for caregivers.
Circle of Care is among the recipients of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $67.5 million Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Initiative. The PSS program has been awarded $7.5 million to expand PSS's leading services to all five boroughs over the next five years.
With the governor's allocation, the agency had added 15 full-time staff devoted specifically to helping families struggling to care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. And by expanding its bilingual programming throughout all five boroughs, PSS is in a position to better understand and address the specific needs of underserved populations.
"The Circle of Care program for Alzheimer’s patients is designed to reach more than 2,500 caregivers each year with a safety net of services including Circle of Care consultants at Caregiving Stations conveniently located throughout the city," PSS Executive Director Rimas Jasin said.
Care Consultants connect caregivers to the services that they need and provide them with information and resources, as many caregivers aren't aware of the resources and services available to them or how to access them.
“What people often forget about Alzheimer’s disease, is that it not only devastates the person who has been diagnosed with it but it also devastates anyone who has known the person diagnosed," said Peter Pagano, one of the PSS Circle of Care Directors, on the importance of the agency's newly expanded services.
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Circle of Care's Caregiver Consultant Hannah Bellinger adds: "Caregivers are both relieved and surprised to hear that PSS Circle of Care is truly a caregiver support program. They expect agencies to provide support to their loved ones and so are surprised that we are here to relieve their own stress and attend to their own needs.”
Among its continuum of services, Circle of Care provides in-person, online and by-phone support groups; training and online resources on caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia; referrals for temporary respite; and coordination of supplemental services, like transportation and health supplies.
“It's essential that people recognize the warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias,” said Katherine Martinez, PSS Deputy Director. These signs include difficulty completing familiar tasks, failing to find the right words, or dramatic changes in mood or withdrawing from social activities.
“It’s even more essential that they realize that help is out there – and that they ask for it, ” Martinez added. Circle of Care can be reached through their toll-free bilingual hotline 866-665-1713 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carole McFarlane is a former caregiver who received support from the Circle of Care program while caring for her mother, who had dementia. Now, McFarlane is a PSS volunteer.
“I needed help and didn’t know where to turn when I heard about PSS,” McFarlane said. “Thanks to Circle of Care, I could pick up the phone anytime I needed to talk. PSS was always there for me in a timely manner.”