Alzheimer’s NJ is a statewide advocacy group focused on supporting patients, caregivers, and family members of those touched by Alzheimer’s disease. As life expectancy increases, and the Baby Boomer generation advances into their golden years, the number of people impacted by Alzheimer’s has been on the rise. Jersey City has a robust senior population and Alzheimer’s NJ regularly conducts outreach in our communities to assist those who are affected by the disease. The Partnership awarded Alzheimer’s NJ one of the 2018 mini-grants, and asked them to answer the same five questions as all out 2018 mini-grantees. Here are their answers:
What does building a culture of health mean to you?
Building a culture of health means helping New Jersey families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, including families from Jersey City, have the best day possible while dealing with the overwhelming challenges of the disease. When Alzheimer’s touches your life, Alzheimer’s New Jersey is here with information, education programs, support groups, advocacy, raising awareness and much more offering hope, and support to New Jersey families while working to advance a cure. As the number of people impacted by the disease grows at a rapid rate in the state; it’s more important than ever to help families live with the disease safely, with dignity, care and hope. This can improve their quality of life and in turn positively impact emotional and physical health. With over 600,000 people in New Jersey touched by this terrible disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia touches us all.
What would you identify as your most significant accomplishment so far towards building a greater culture of health? What have been some of your toughest barriers?
We are very proud of our 30+ year legacy of being a trusted organization for Alzheimer’s support in New Jersey, known for our leadership in the Alzheimer’s community, dedicated staff, and high quality effective programs serving individuals with memory loss and those individuals who are suddenly in the unexpected role of caregiver. Our programs are far-reaching throughout the state, and are free (because of fundraising), therefore giving anyone in need of help access to our programs and services. This past year, 14,000 New Jersey residents including families from Jersey City, benefited from our programs and services. In terms of barriers, a recent statewide survey by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind on behalf of Alzheimer’s New Jersey found that many families are not being guided to services that could help them cope, after a diagnosis has been received. It’s important for people to know they are not alone and services are available that can help them cope. The survey has highlighted the need for greater physician education and awareness (click here to read a recent Star-Ledger article about this survey). According to Kenneth Zaentz, our President and CEO, “one of the biggest challenges we see is that people still do not understand the disease. Some people think it’s just about memory loss – however, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition. It is a common cause of dementia.”
Tell us about your team. What they do to build a culture of health in Jersey City?
We have a dedicated team of dementia experts on staff in 3 New Jersey offices (Roseland, Oradell, and East Brunswick). Although our staff is not based in Jersey City, our staff’s expertise and guidance is readily available through our Helpline. When someone calls our Helpline, our staff will provide them with personal, confidential assistance about Alzheimer’s and other dementias and available community services. They will also learn about our other programs which include personalized care consultations, family support groups, community education programs, the Respite Care and Wellness program, and our Always Safe and Clinical Trials Connections programs. All of these services are available to residents from Jersey City and surrounding communities. Our Program Staff is available to conduct Community Education programs on request. These programs may be “open to the public” or scheduled as “closed sessions” for specific groups. A specialized closed training, “Alzheimer’s for First Responders,” has been scheduled for March at the Hank Gallo Center in Jersey City. Some examples of the types of education programs we offer include: Alzheimer’s 101, Understanding Memory Loss, Communication Tips and Techniques in Alzheimer’s Disease, and Residential Care Options. Our team is known for their expertise in the dementia field, knowledge of community resources, and for the caring one on one support they give to each person who contacts us. In the words of one Helpline caller, I will never forget my first call. Staff stayed on the phone with me for over 2 hours. They gave me information and made helpful suggestions. Most important, they were patient with me because they understood the emotional stress I was feeling.
How do you plan to use your Culture of Health Grant?
Alzheimer’s New Jersey received a grant of $2,500 to provide respite care scholarships, $1,000 each, to Jersey City Alzheimer caregivers. These scholarships are given out as part of our Respite Care and Wellness program – a program that provides professional staff guidance, referral assistance, resources materials and respite scholarships ($1,000) to caregivers of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. To date, 2 scholarships of $1,000 each have been provided to 2 Jersey City caregivers. We anticipate that the remaining balance of $500 will be used with other funds to provide a 3rd $1,000 scholarship pending identification of a recipient who meets program criteria from Jersey City. When Alzheimer’s strikes, family members slowly become full time caregivers and assume responsibilities that can include taking care of a loved one’s basic needs to struggling to negotiate the healthcare system. In doing so, they face many challenges and are desperately in need of information and help in carrying out their responsibilities and over time the need for respite can become critical. Our Respite Care and Wellness program is designed to provide family caregivers with information and education about the importance of regular time-off from caregiving, and help link them to available community-based respite care resources. We also provide a financial scholarship of $1,000 to help support the cost of respite care services. To qualify for the program, three criteria must be met: the primary family caregiver and the person with Alzheimer’s disease must live together; the primary caregiver is required to complete an application and submit a physician’s verification that the individual receiving care has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or a related progressive, degenerative, neurological dementia; and the caregiver must sign and have notarized an attestation that they will use the scholarship only for respite care through a licensed New Jersey agency provider. What is the value of a $1,000 scholarship? A $1,000 Respite Care Scholarship will allow a caregiver to purchase up to 45 hours of home health care at $22 per hour or up to 8 days of adult day care at $120 per day. This can be life-changing.
If you knew an organization that was thinking of joining the Partnership for a Healthier JC, what would you say to encourage them to join?
It’s an opportunity to connect with organizations with similar goals, learn about the community, and to improve the lives of Jersey City residents – an important community resource.
Special Note: One of our key fundraisers is Walk to Fight Alzheimer’s. This is our largest fundraising event to support New Jersey families impacted by the disease. These walks raise significant funds and connect people impacted by the disease, allowing them to share their experiences. This again, can have a favorable impact on emotional and physical health. Walk to Fight Alzheimer’s is comprised of 5 local walks including one in Jersey City at Liberty State Park. The 2019 Jersey City Walk is scheduled for Saturday, October 5, 2019. #HealthierJC can play an important role in letting Jersey City residents know about the walk and encourage participation.