A Primer on Dementia and RVNAhealth Support Services

Dementia and Alzheimer's

While former President Jimmy Carter has made headlines about his current journey on hospice care, the former First Lady, Rosalynn, has also been notably in the news. In May of this year, the family announced that Mrs. Carter has dementia. Like her husband’s hospice news, the former First Lady’s diagnosis shines a further light of awareness on the topic of dementia and, in particular, on caregivers. Carter has been a long-term advocate for mental health and caregiving issues, including dementia.

Understanding the Basics…Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s

Dementia is a broad term used to describe a group of cognitive impairments (including Alzheimer’s disease) that interfere with an individual’s daily life and functioning. It is not a specific disease itself, but rather a syndrome characterized by a decline in cognitive function beyond what might be expected as a result of normal aging. Common symptoms of dementia include memory loss, difficulties with problem-solving, language and communication problems, and changes in mood and behavior.

What Causes Dementia?

There are various underlying causes of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common. The exact cause of dementia depends on the specific type, but in general, it often involves damage to brain cells or a decrease in the brain’s ability to function correctly. This can result from various factors, including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease: Abnormal protein deposits in the brain, such as amyloid plaques and tau tangles, contribute to cognitive decline.
  • Vascular dementia: Reduced blood flow to the brain, often due to strokes or small vessel disease, leads to cognitive impairments.
  • Lewy body dementia: Accumulation of abnormal protein deposits (Lewy bodies) in the brain.
  • Frontotemporal dementia: Degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, leading to changes in behavior and personality.
  • Other causes: Dementia can also result from conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, traumatic brain injury, or infections.

The Statistics

Many find the staggering statistics around dementia surprising. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, some of the statistics include:

  • One in three of seniors, ages 65+, dies with a form of dementia.
  • It is the fifth leading cause of death for older adults in the U.S.
  • Specific to just Alzheimer’s, the lifetime risk at age 45 is 1 in 5 for women and 1 in 10 for men.
  • In 2023, all dementias will cost the nation $345 billion and by 2050, costs could rise to nearly $1 trillion.

RVNAhealth Dementia offerings

Caregiving in the Dementia Equation

At the announcement of the former First Lady’s dementia diagnosis, the family stated “As the founder of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, Mrs. Carter often noted that there are only four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers; those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

The Alzheimer’s Association estimated that in 2022, unpaid caregivers (family, friends, neighbors) provided an estimated 18 billion hours of care (or an average of ~26 hours/week) for individuals with dementia. While the impact and care needs for individuals affected by dementia are multifaceted, we cannot forget the needs of dementia caregivers. Caring for a loved one with dementia can be an emotionally, physically, and mentally challenging experience, and it can take a significant toll. It’s crucial for caregivers to prioritize self-care and seek assistance when needed to maintain their own health and well-being.

RVNAhealth Dementia Services and Support

Dementia is a progressive condition, meaning that symptoms tend to worsen over time. There is no cure for most types of dementia, but some medications and therapies can help manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals with dementia. Caregiver support and appropriate healthcare are crucial for those affected by dementia.

Early diagnosis and intervention can make a significant difference in managing the condition and improving the well-being of both patients and their families. RVNAhealth offers a variety of patient and caregiver support services for dementia. Please see some of our patient and caregiver support services below. Click here if you would like to join our dementia-specific mailing list for updates on RVNAhealth dementia education, events and support offerings. Or, if you have any questions, please contact us by email: intake@rvnahealth.org, or phone: 203.438.5555.

RVNAhealth Dementia Support Services:

  • Dementia Caregiver Support Group: In support of the challenges and needs facing the caregiving population, RVNAhealth offers a Dementia Caregiver Support group monthly, in coordination with the Alzheimer’s Association. Held on the fourth Monday of every month from 11:00am-12:00pm at the RVNAhealth Ridgefield office, the caregiver support group aims to create a safe, confidential, supportive environment and a chance for participants to develop informal mutual support and social relationships. They also educate and inform participants about dementia and help participants develop methods and skills to solve problems.
  • Personal Medical Alert Services: At the early stages of a dementia diagnosis, when round the clock care may not be necessary, a personal medical alert device can provide caregiver peace of mind for the health and well-being of a loved one. RVNAhealth offers a variety of in-home and on-the-go Lifeline device options.
  • Rehabilitation Services: Rehabilitation services help patients extend their independence in activities and speech.  Occupational and Speech Therapists help to stimulate cognitive and fine motor skills while providing practical tools to maximize activity, safety, and enhance quality of life.
  • Nutrition ServicesNutrition services for dementia, offered by our Registered Dietitian, are aimed at promoting appetite, healthy body weight, and positive engagement with food, while balancing each patient’s unique nutritional needs.
  • Private Duty Caregivers: Available as hourly or live-in, our private duty caregivers can provide a variety of non-medical personal and house-hold assistance based upon a patient’s evolving need.
  • Private Duty NursingProviding immediate access to care for medical needs and treatments not covered by insurance.  From medical care in the home, to medication preparation and administration, to peace of mind medical assessments and vital sign checks when getting to the doctor is too difficult – Private Duty Nurses provide immediate and customized care in coordination with a patient’s doctor.
  • Palliative & Hospice Care: For advanced dementia disease, palliative and hospice care with RVNAhealth provides in-home comfort care and peace to patient and family. An experienced team consisting of medical, social, spiritual, and family support volunteers bring their expertise and experience in dementia care to families and their loved ones.
  • Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) Program : RVNAhealth proudly offers Certified Dementia Practitioner training to its staff. CDPs are equipped with training and tools to help deliver appropriate and effective communications with patients. This additional expertise enables improved communication and assistance between our team, the caregiver, patient, and family.


Thanking our StayingWELL Caregivers

RVNAhealth caregiver appreciation week 2023

Last week RVNAhealth celebrated Caregiver Appreciation Week for our StayingWELL non-medical caregivers. The RVNAhealth StayingWELL caregiver team is a group of exceptional individuals who work tirelessly for our clients, bringing tremendous skills, compassion, and pride to their job. We are proud to recognize this team of over 200 individuals.

Caregiver Appreciation Week 2023

As part of the celebration, caregivers were treated to a drop-in buffet lunch and snack bar, raffle, and gift bags at our New Milford and Ridgefield, CT offices. “I and the StayingWELL staff team are so proud of our caregivers. They are simply the best and we love the opportunity to celebrate their hard work, compassion, and overall contribution to our clients’ lives. During our event, some clients even came along with their caregiver – which was a wonderful surprise and extra special way to capture the gratitude we all felt,” said Melissa Woodhouse, Director of RVNAhealth StayingWELL Services.

Celebrating Caregivers Year-Round with Our Above & Beyond Program

While we formally celebrate this appreciation week just one time annually, we are honored to have our caregivers recognized by our clients continuously throughout the year. Our StayingWELL Caregiver Above & Beyond Program is a monthly recognition program to highlight and recognize those caregivers who go above and beyond in their jobs. There is no better way to celebrate these amazing individuals than by sharing a few of the appreciative words we’ve received recently.

“Although only with Dad one day a week, Isaac and Vilma became comforting and consistent presences, rarely missing a Saturday and developing their own special rhythm for this weekend day. Isaac gave Dad a good shave and watched sports games with him, helping to keep him awake and interested, when sleeping was really his go-to preference. Vilma was amazingly encouraging and soothing when Dad felt overwhelmed and missed my mom or needed that extra motivation to get out of his comfortable recliner.” – Daughter, Katy L.

“Meisie has been a live-in aide for me for the past few months. Not only is she a great cook; she is a wonderful companion. She makes sure I eat well-made and nutritious meals. She also drives me to any appointments I may have and always helps me in and out of the car and wheels me in the wheelchair to the appointment. When a family member can’t accompany me to an appointment, she always writes down the questions that need to be asked to keep my care current.” – Judy V., Danbury

“Karen exemplifies what this nomination is all about. She goes “above and beyond” what her job description calls for. Karen is tireless – always anticipating my husband’s needs. Karen also helps me to keep up with household chores. Karen is always professional and lives up to the standards of RVNAhealth at all times” – P.C., Southbury

To all our StayingWELL caregivers, you are an invaluable part of our RVNAhealth family. A heartfelt thank you – your dedication is genuinely cherished! To read more caregiver Above & Beyond testimonials, visit our Meet the Caregivers webpage.

Caregiver Appreciation Week 2023 Photo Gallery:

RVNAhealth StayingWELL Services Wins Distinguished 2023 Leader in Experience Award

Congratulations to RVNAhealth’s StayingWELL Services division for winning the distinguished 2023 Best of Home Care – Leader in Experience Award from Home Care Pulse (HCP), the leading firm in experience management for home care. The Leader in Experience Award is the highest recognition awarded by HCP. It is given to select home care businesses that receive both HCP’s Provider of Choice and Employer of Choice awards – reflecting client and employee satisfaction ratings among the very highest in 10 or more quality metrics. As a Leader in Experience, RVNAhealth is now recognized among the top 15% of home care providers participating in the nationwide HCP Experience Management Program.

Committed to being the best in our field, RVNAhealth partnered with Home Care Pulse at the beginning of 2020 as part of an ongoing improvement initiative, to better understand the client and employee assistant experience.  As an independent third-party provider, Home Care Pulse collects candid and direct phone-interview feedback monthly from StayingWELL clients and employees in areas such as impact on daily life, communication, assistant ability, and client/assistant compatibility.

“Winning this top award category — the Leader in Experience award — is an incredible honor,” says Melissa Woodhouse, RRT, MOT, OTR/L, CDP, Director of StayingWELL Services. “I am proud of the efforts made by our team to listen to, and act on, the honest opinions and recommendations made by over 200 of our clients and employees in the past year. The feedback received continues to challenge us in raising the bar for delivering excellence in daily living assistance to our clients and offering a rewarding career to our employees. As one of only 12 participating home care agencies in Connecticut to receive this award, we are honored to be recognized.”

RVNAhealth StayingWELL Services provide non-medical at-home personal and household daily living assistance to help you retain independence and live safely, comfortably, and joyfully at home or wherever you reside. Available 365 days annually, for short- or long-term durations, our living assistants serve over 35 communities in Connecticut. To learn more, please visit https://rvnahealth.org/services/staying-well/ or call 203-438-5555.

Direct Access: What it is and why you want to know about it

Much as a dented car does not get fixed by parking it on the side of the road, nor does a body hindered by injury or pain get healed without attention. Injuries and pain require evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.  Lucky for us, the State of Connecticut offers a healthcare benefit that simplifies the process of getting treated. It’s called Direct Access and it’s a benefit worth knowing about.

Direct Access is a statewide program that eliminates the need for a primary care physician referral prior to seeing a Rehabilitation Therapist. The streamlined process — which allows up to six visits with an RVNAhealth physical therapist at the RVNAhealth Rehabilitation & Wellness Center without a physician referral — is both cost-effective and allows individuals to enjoy swifter diagnosis and relief. In other words, it helps you get better faster.

This little-known benefit began in Connecticut in 2006 to provide patients more immediate diagnosis and relief.  “Direct Access is an expedited way to get to the root cause and treat, rather than just self-diagnose — or ignore — both of which can prolong the issue but are tempting when the process of getting to a therapist is belabored,” says Gigi Weiss, MSPT, RVNAhealth Director of Rehabilitation Therapies. “Ultimately, Direct Access allows you to get in quickly to increase stability, relieve discomfort, and prevent worsening,”

Weiss encourages those with intermittent pain, mild injury, mobility limitations, or other chronic conditions to leverage the Direct Access program not just for minimization of discomfort but for proper diagnosis and treatment. “Often patients self-treat without success because symptoms are not always representative of the core issue,” says Weiss. “For example, neck issues can present as wrist pain so tending to the wrist won’t address the root cause and won’t provide much relief, especially long term. In many cases, the six visits granted through Direct Access get an individual well on their way to healing.”

Direct access can also benefit individuals with lingering difficulties from a health episode, like swallowing, fine motor skills, or communication. In these cases, Direct Access provides a fast track to restorative visits with an appropriate clinician.

At RVNAhealth, the rehabilitation team also collaborates with insurance providers and primary care physicians to coordinate coverage and treatment so patients can focus on wellness. For more information or to schedule a Direct Access assessment, visit RVNAhealth.org/Rehab or call  (203) 438-7862.


In Celebration of Family Caregivers – Tips to Remain at Your Best!

This month RVNAhealth took time to recognize and thank our StayingWELL caregivers for their tireless efforts in helping clients remain safely and confidently at home.  We celebrate our caregivers during November, which also happens to be National Family Caregivers Month.

As a caregiver, prioritizing time for yourself can be just as important as the care you provide for a loved one at home.  Feeling your best and feeling adequately prepared can only happen when you invest time in yourself.  Here are some helpful tips to help family caregivers remain at their best both physically and mentally.

  • Learn and use stress-reduction techniques, e.g., meditation, prayer, yoga, Tai Chi
  • Attend to your own healthcare needs
  • Get proper rest and nutrition
  • Exercise regularly, even if only for 10 minutes at a time
  • Take time off without feeling guilty
  • Participate in pleasant, nurturing activities, such as reading a good book, taking a warm bath
  • Seek and accept the support of others
  • Seek supportive counseling when you need it, or talk to a trusted counselor, friend, or pastor
  • Identify and acknowledge your feelings, you have a right to ALL of them
  • Change the negative ways you view situations
  • Set goals

If you or someone you know is a family caregiver in need of additional care support, RVNAhealth offers care planning and management services, as well as its own StayingWELL services offering both hourly and live-in caregiving for personal and household support.  Visit RVNAhealth at https://rvnahealth.org/services/staying-well/ or call us at 203.438.5555 x 4 for more information.

If you would like more information you can go to: https://www.caregiver.org/resource/taking-care-you-self-care-family-caregivers/




Happy Caregiver Appreciation Week 2021

This past week RVNAhealth took time to celebrate Caregiver Appreciation Week and thank our StayingWELL caregivers for their tireless efforts in helping our clients to remain safely and confidently in their homes.  Caregivers were treated to a drop-in reception and a pampering-themed gift bag in both our Ridgefield and New Milford offices.  The StayingWELL caregiving team — over 200 strong — is a group of award-winning individuals who bring pride and compassion to their work and clients. We appreciate and thank these individuals for their tremendous contributions each and every day!

RVNAhealth to Host Caregiver Job Fair

In response to the growing demand for non-medical companion care and assistance, RVNAhealth StayWELL Services will be hosting a Caregiver Job Fair on Saturday, September 25th from 10:00am-2:00pm, outside the Danbury Public Library, 170 Main St, Danbury, CT.Continue reading

RVNAhealth Talks OT on ‘Lutheran Home Live’

Recently RVNAhealth had a chance to discuss Occupational Therapy with Wendy Mutter, Marketing Director and Admissions Liaison from Lutheran Home of Southbury.  Wendy hosts a regular series called Lutheran Home Live, profiled on Southbury.com, aiming to educate the Southbury public on available health and aging services.  Danielle Taibi MOTR/L, CDP (below, left), a licensed Occupational Therapist since 2013 and Home Health Aide Supervisor for RVNAhealth StayWELL Services, had a chance to talk about RVNAhealth services and cover the basics of Occupational Therapy and its approach.

Danielle Taibi, MOTR/L, CDP

Danielle began by explaining the difference between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy – a topic very often misunderstood.  Occupational Therapy often focuses on addressing an injury or illness that has disrupted a person’s normal activities of daily life – activities as basic as eating, bathing, dressing, for example – and then helping that person regain function.  Typically, a physical therapist and an occupational therapist will have the same goals for a patient’s recovery, but their approach and techniques will differ.  Occupational Therapy focuses less on bio-mechanical exercise — typical of physical therapy — and more on common meaningful activities and fine motor skills to help one regain their optimal function.  Danielle provided the example of using laundry folding as a functional Occupational Therapy technique to work on a person’s range of motion improvement.

Falls prevention was another topic discussed and of frequent importance to Occupational Therapists working in the home.  More than 1 in 4 older adults fall every year and 60% of these falls happen in the home.  When an Occupational Therapist enters a home to work on mobility issues, falls prevention is a priority and can be addressed through a home assessment.  An Occupational Therapist can identify risks in the home and make recommendations, often starting with the removal or securing of area rugs and electrical wires and assessing the bathroom for possible assistance equipment needs or grab bars.  While often simple recommendations, changes such as these can make a significant difference to remaining safe in one’s home.

RVNAhealth offers Occupational Therapy services both in the home and at our outpatient Rehabilitation & Wellness Center, located in Ridgefield.  Please visit our website to learn more about RVNAhealth’s Occupational Therapy services and team.  And for more information specific to falls prevention, please see RVNAhealth’s recent Falls Prevention webinar.

Thank you to Wendy Mutter of the Lutheran Home of Southbury for profiling Occupational Therapy and RVNAhealth.  And thank you to On the Mend Medical Supplies & Equipment for hosting the interview in their wonderful store in Southbury.  You can view the full video interview here.

For more information on Occupational Therapy or other services provided by RVNAhealth, please email or contact us at 203-438-5555 x2.

StayWELL Earns ‘Employer of Choice’ Award

The RVNAhealth StayWELL team has been awarded a 2021 Best of Home Care® - Employer of Choice Award from Home Care Pulse. This award recognizes RVNAhealth and our StayWELL business as one of the top performing non-medical home care agency employers in the nation, based upon unfiltered caregiver employee feedback.Continue reading