Care for Caregivers

After her parents’ divorce as a baby, Patricia Davidson did not meet her father, “Pops,” until she was 22 years old and did not have much contact with him since. It was only after a phone call from her aunt that led her to reconnect as an adult. Patricia’s aunt shared that Pops had been living with her but that she could no longer care for him, so Patricia decided to travel to California to see him in person. She found him isolated and taking out his frustrations on others due to his dementia diagnosis. Patricia thought that he might be happier in his hometown and made a proposal: either move to a nursing home in California or go back to New Orleans with her. Although this was a huge step in their relationship after so many years apart, she remembered what her mother always said – no matter what, he was her father.

After a few months of living together, Patricia did not know how to make things work. She had converted two rooms in her house for his bedroom and television room, but they were not familiar enough with each other to communicate effectively. Additionally, people with dementia like Pops get anxiety from new environments and routines. After five months, Patricia recognized that she needed help, and a friend suggested she try PACE.

At PACE, Patricia met Trisha Ventura, an occupational therapist certified to deliver Skills2Care, a research-tested occupational therapy program that benefits both people with dementia and their caregivers. It aims to improve the well-being and skills of caregivers and to reduce challenging behaviors and slow the decline in daily function of people with dementia. “When I first met Patricia, she was frustrated and overwhelmed with Mr. Davidson and the daily care routine,” Ventura says. “They were constantly arguing, and he resisted her attempts to assist him.”

The Skills2Care occupational therapy sessions emphasized education about dementia, strategies to help calm Pops and his resistance to care, and caregiver wellness and relaxation. Patricia has also learned how to communicate more effectively with Pops and recognize what would upset him. These new strategies improved their lives, easing the burden Patricia felt as Pop’s primary caregiver.

Patricia is also benefitting from Skills2Care with time to go to the gym and shop without worrying about who is watching Pops. He now loves the back deck of Davidson’s home in the upper 9th Ward where he spends his mornings and evenings before watching his favorite TV shows. He has also established a new routine by attending the adult daycare center close to home. Patricia shares, “The program has been a true blessing. God helped to provide a great solution to a problem I previously found hard to manage.”

Learn more about PACE’s support of both patients and their caregivers here