New direction for Gina and Jim
When Gina confided to others that her husband Jim (last names withheld at subjects’ request) was battling dementia, the reaction was often the same: Plenty of troubling stories and “here’s-what-you-should-do” advice.
Neither was helpful. Then Gina met Marty Finley, a navigator with Sun Health’s Memory Care Navigator Program. She had an entirely different response.
“She actually gives you constructive things that you can do that make you feel like you are addressing the problem,” Gina said. “She’s really been a go-to person as things come up and I have questions.”
Now, Gina and Jim are traveling their new journey with a better sense of direction.
The Memory Care Navigator Program is designed to help clients, family members and caregivers navigate the emotional, psychological and physical effects of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
With guidance from navigators like Marty, clients develop a plan of care tailored to their needs. Clients also rely on navigators to serve as a liaison between them and families, physicians, and community services. Navigators make home visits and are available by phone.
Gina learned about the navigator program through an unexpected source. Gina and Marty happen to share the same hairdresser and after hearing Gina’s story, the hairdresser made an introduction.
The connection was meant to be. “I don’t think there are any accidents in this life,” Gina said.
And the connection could not have come at a more critical time.
“In the beginning, the diagnosis is devastating because you kind of know what’s coming or at least you’ve heard what’s coming,” Gina said.
Tears flowed, she said, over “losing a part of our life” and facing the coming changes.
During Marty’s first home visit with Gina and Jim, she did an assessment and began offering information and options. They talked about the importance of home safety and things like medic alert bracelets. Marty also suggested support groups for the couple and a day program for people with dementia that Jim now attends.
Marty was always just a phone call away. So as Gina heard suggestions in support groups, such as installing flip locks on the doors at home, she had someone to bounce ideas off.
Most important, she helped the couple create an action plan. “You feel like ‘OK, this is what it is, I have to come to terms with it, and these are the things that I can do to make life a little bit better for him’,” Gina said. “Day to day maybe it will make his life a little more comfortable and it will maybe make me not so fearful.”
During this journey, Gina has found comfort and strength in different ways. She stays busy with the fitness program Silver Sneakers and enjoys lunches with friends. She is guided by her faith and Bible passages.
She appreciates the gifts of friends – a willing shoulder to lean on, a prayer in a time of need – and the fact that Marty is always quick to lend an ear.
“Marty is a very good listener and I think that’s very helpful,” Gina said.
The Memory Care Navigator Program is offered to the community at no cost through the generosity of Sun Health Foundation donors.
“I’m very, very grateful that this program exists,” Gina said. “I think navigator is really a good term. Because in the beginning you’re just kind of floundering, you have no idea what direction to go in and everybody has an opinion as to what you should do. And that is really confusing.”
“The navigator program points you in the right direction and I am grateful for the help.”