Dementia. The mere mention of cognitive decline is usually enough to send chills down the spines of older Americans and their family members.
While there is broad recognition of the devastating impact of living with illnesses that include symptoms affecting memory and thinking, such as Alzheimer’s disease, there has been less focus on the impact on those who care for loved ones with dementia.
“Dementia takes its toll on at least two people’s lives,” said Marie Clouqueur, LICSW, a McLean case manager who brings together caregivers for a weekly support group. The group serves as a forum for caregivers to share their experiences navigating the challenges of supporting a loved one confronting the disease.
Clouqueur, whose salary is partially funded by a gift from the family of the late Rosalie Rudnick and other donors, said it is uncommon for an outpatient geriatric psychiatry clinic to have a case manager who can provide ongoing guidance for patients and families.
Even more unusual is that her background in psychotherapy and family therapy enables Clouqueur to go beyond logistical care planning and address emotional and relational challenges through individual and group meetings.
“Services that support the caregiver help both people have the highest quality of life, because we touch the person who is with the patient the most, who sees them through their everyday struggles,” she said.
The caregiver group came about as a result of the pandemic, which temporarily shut down the clinical trials that provided not just medications but also much-needed interaction with clinical staff. The support groups for trial participants and for their caregivers helped fill the void, and both groups continued when trials restarted and even expanded their member base.