Susan I. Shultz
Helping people and working with older adults have always been passions of mine. During my 15 years of working with older adults I first worked as a Therapeutic Recreation Director in a nursing home setting. While the nursing staff was focused on taking care of the physical needs of the residents I was invested in preserving and enriching their social/emotional/intellectual side. My goal was to help residents have the best quality of life possible in a nursing home setting.
During recent years, I’ve been fortunate to focus my work on helping individuals with dementia continue to live in their own homes, with the assistance of services provided through the CT Statewide Respite Care Program. The program is operated in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, CT Chapter, and the CT Area Agencies on Aging. As a Respite Care Manager with this program, I’ve met a multitude of individuals afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. I’ve also had the honor of meeting their family caregivers who are dedicated to helping their loved one stay at home and avoid institutionalization. I often find caregivers are at a loss as to where to begin. They are typically “learning on the job”, learning about dementia, how to care for their loved one, identifying resources and programs. So many caregivers are overwhelmed, exhausted, stretched beyond their limits and in need of respite. Some are juggling full time work in addition to caregiving. Others are at home full time with their loved one, feeling isolated and having little support.
I’ve become increasingly passionate about providing education, resources and support for caregivers to help them reduce their stress as they selflessly dedicate themselves to caring for their loved one. Caring for the caregiver is critical to caring for the individual with Alzheimer’s. I attempt to provide that care through my current work as a Respite Care Manager, as a co-facilitator of an evening Caregiver Support Group and by periodically participating on Alzheimer’s Association workshop panels to discuss community resources. I can’t praise the Alzheimer’s Association enough for its dedication to advancing research to end Alzheimer’s Disease, enhancing care for those living with the disease and supporting caregivers through extensive education and resources.