All Things Aging: The Healthy Living Center of Excellence

October 2020, Hosted by Nandi Munson & Katie Houle

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Report Shows Savvy Caregiver Program Helps Families Caring
for Loved-Ones with Dementia

Data shows more than 90% of participants increased knowledge, skills, and confidence as caregivers.

January, 2020 – A recent report prepared by UMASS Medical Center for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs shows that the Savvy Caregiver (SC) program is highly effective in helping families cope with the challenges that come from caring for loved-ones living with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. SC is offered through the Healthy Living Center of Excellence/ Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley (HLCE/ESMV) to families in Merrimack Valley and North Shore Massachusetts Communities as well as in Barnstable, Bristol, Plymouth and Worcester counties. These trainings are made possible with support from a generous Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation grant. HPHC Foundations appreciates the challenges family caregivers face and the public health implications.

The number of family members caring for a patient with dementia is staggering and their challenges sobering:

  • About 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone with dementia. Family members provide the bulk of community-based care for persons with dementia and often do so for long periods of time.
  • The most frequently identified sources of caregiver burden and distress are associated with care receiver behavior and efforts to manage that behavior. Effectively dealing with these issues while maintaining one’s own well-being is particularly challenging for family caregivers, given their close emotional ties to the patient, and the changing nature of their relationship.
  • Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high.

SC, an evidence-based educational program, teaches caregivers the basic knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to handle the challenges of caring for someone with dementia. In October 2016, EOEA contracted with HLCE/ESMV to offer SC workshops to caregivers. Between February 2017 and August 2018, a total of 76 workshops were held. Five hundred forty participants completed a pre- and a post-test. Evaluation of the data showed that over 90% of participants increased their knowledge, skills, and confidence. Over 98% were satisfied with the training, and almost 100% would recommend it to others. 

“Every doctor should know about Savvy,” says a SC graduate. “That way caregivers can understand before the disease progresses that they can be a comfort to their loved-one who is living with dementia, and learn to take care of themselves at the same time.”

About the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation

Created in 1980, The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation supports Harvard Pilgrim’s mission to improve the quality and value of health care for the people and communities we serve. The Foundation provides the tools, training and leadership to help build healthy communities throughout Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. In 2017, the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation awarded nearly $2.3 million in grants to 900 not-for-profit organizations in the region. Since its inception, the Foundation has granted nearly $145 million in funds and resources throughout the four states. For more information visit