JFS program empowers those with early- to moderate-stage dementia and families.

An early- to moderate-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis can feel like a devastating blow. Those diagnosed and their families often feel overwhelmed thinking about all the life changes to come.

While a diagnosis can be difficult to process, finding support and resources early on is essential to increasing the quality of life of both the person living with the disease and their family caregiver, who is typically an adult child or spouse. To help individuals meet this goal, Jewish Family Service offers SHARE for Dementia, an evidence-based program from Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, within its Caregiver Support Program.

The Caregiver Support Program at JFS, supported by grants from the Jewish Fund and the Ben Teitel Philanthropic Fund, focuses on helping to reduce family caregiver stress, avoid caregiver burnout and achieve the best possible care for their loved ones. SHARE for Dementia helps guide families through the anxiety of an early- to moderate-stage diagnosis by creating a practical plan for the future that puts the person who has been diagnosed at the center of their own care.

How Does SHARE Work?

The person living with dementia or Alzheimer’s and their family caregiver meet with a SHARE counselor for five interactive, guided sessions that provide individualized support, consider physical and mental health needs, prioritize meaningful and purposeful activities, access and navigate available resources, and offer general education about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Each session builds upon the last, allowing the person with the diagnosis and their family caregiver to talk openly about the diagnosis. Together, they create a personalized plan for their future (the SHARE Plan) and find ways to preserve their way of life as much as possible going forward.

An optional sixth session provides both parties a valuable tool — a space for a productive family meeting can be held to inform close family members about their loved one’s diagnosis and the family caregiver’s needs for support. In this family session, the person with the diagnosis, their family caregiver and invited family members can openly express their thoughts and concerns regarding the future. The SHARE counselor can provide dementia and Alzheimer’s disease education as needed, and all involved can ask any questions they might have as their loved one’s disease progresses.

This opportunity for discussion helps reduce misinformation about the diagnosis and increase feelings of readiness for upcoming life changes. Other family members then learn about the SHARE Plan their loved ones have made and how they can help the two implement and maintain this plan as time goes on. Everyone hears the same message and comes together on the same page to support their loved ones.

Why Participate in SHARE?

SHARE helps clarify post-diagnosis next steps and makes each day feel more doable for all parties involved. Those living with early- to moderate-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s have the opportunity to make their care preferences known, promoting confidence that their caregiver and family members will honor their wishes when they can no longer communicate them.

In turn, caregivers and family members are empowered and often relieved to know they can carry out their loved one’s wishes when making important care decisions on their behalf.

In addition, caregivers who are doing more than they will be able to keep up with as their loved ones’ needs progress are equipped with the strategies and tools necessary to strike a balance.

Everyone involved in SHARE will end the program with more hope for the future and anticipation for the meaningful and happy times still to come.

“My mother and I communicate very well,” says one SHARE participant. “But when it came to knowing what she wanted as the dementia goes on, I would not have known what she wanted without help from the SHARE program.”

What If My Loved One Has a More Advanced Dementia or Alzheimer’s Diagnosis?

SHARE was designed to be an early- to moderate-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis intervention; however, the Caregiver Support Program assists those who are caregiving for a loved one with a more advanced diagnosis or a different diagnosis altogether, and aims to be a comprehensive resource for family caregivers at any point of their caregiving journey, providing family consultation, resource navigation, educational workshops and trainings, long-term planning, caregiver health and wellness education, and bereavement support.

Additional Community Support

The Dorothy & Peter Brown Adult Day Program, a partnership of Gesher Human Services and Jewish Senior Life, provides engaging programs and services for people living with dementia and their family caregivers, including a virtual support group. (248) 661-6390 or info@brownadultday.org

ElderCare Solutions of Michigan, a program of JFS, offers older adults and their loved ones one-time consultations, comprehensive assessments and ongoing case management services. (248)-592-1944 or resourcecenter@jfsdetroit.org.

Mind University, JFS’s cognitive wellness program, offers cognitive training classes, monthly workshops, family consultations and community presentations. (248) 788-MIND or MindU@jfsdetroit.org.

Emily Gordon, LLMSW, is the Caregiver Support Program Coordinator at Jewish Family Service. For more information about SHARE or the Caregiver Support Program, contact her at (248) 970-2779 or egordon@jfsdetroit.org.

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