By Wendy Sarubbi | April 30, 2014 12:19 pm

As Americans struggle to care for a rapidly aging population, approximately 43.5 million people have assumed caregiver roles for aging family members and another 14.9 million are caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. In response to that need, UCF Health, the College of Medicine physicians practice, is partnering with the UCF Department of Psychology to offer a five-week supports series for caregivers.

“Providing care for an aging parent, spouse or friend can be a rewarding experience. It also can be one of life’s greatest challenges,” said Dr. Daniel Paulson, a UCF assistant professor of psychology who will lead the series. “The day-to-day feelings of stress, anxiety and isolation can often seem like too much to bear. And we know when the caregiver isn’t cared for, their quality of life declines, as does the level of care they’re able to provide for their loved one.”

Research shows that when caregivers attend organized support groups run by trained professionals, they can double the amount of time a senior with dementia can stay at home, rather than be cared for through an outside and often more costly program. Research also shows that support groups bring increased peace-of-mind to families trying to accommodate their loved one’s wishes.

“I’ve seen repeatedly that caregiver support groups give participants the tools they need to feel more connected to others sharing similar experiences, more confident about their abilities to meet the needs of their loved ones, and are less distressed by the competing demands they face,” he said.

The series will include information on improving communication, understanding difficult behaviors and increasing pleasant events for both the caregiver and patient.

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