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Rural Caregiver

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Rural Caregiving
By Liza Berger, Staff Writer

(Page 4 of 7)

Meals on Wheels Association of America ( Provides meal services to people in need. It provides one hot meal per day to seniors. Has recently expanded into rural communities.

Rural Caregiving and Alzheimer’s

Geographic isolation and low population density make general caregiving a hurdle in rural areas of the country. Taking care of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias has its own set of difficulties. Thankfully, in many regions, programs are available to help caregivers cope better.

Dealing with dementia is no small feat—even in urban and suburban areas of the country. The disease, which may afflict as many as 5.2 million Americans, currently has no cure and is characterized by a loss of or decline in memory and other cognitive abilities. The onset of Alzheimer’s-dementia typically begins with forgetfulness, apathy and depression. Later symptoms include impaired judgment, confusion, and changes in personality and behavior. The disease eventually results in the complete loss of functional, behavioral and cognitive functions.

Informal caregivers provide the majority of care for persons with Alzheimer’s disease around the country. Spouses and family members who assume this responsibility not only have to deal with the physical demands, but the emotional strain as well.

“There are challenges in dealing with a person who cannot direct their own day, to feed themselves, to dress themselves, and who might be engaged in unsafe behavior,” explained Katie Maslow, director of policy development for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Rural Challenges

One of the most glaring problems facing rural caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s is the shortage of caregiving professionals. These include primary care physicians, as well as mental and behavioral health specialists.The shortage of mental health workforce professionals is among the most significant challenges rural communities face, according to “The 2004 Report to the Secretary: Rural Health and Human Service Issues.” The National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services published this report. In 2003, 74 percent of 1,196 federally designated Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas were located in rural counties.


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