Helping Individuals and Caregivers Navigate Alzheimer’s and Dementia
One of the beautiful things about life is the ability to remember. True, not all memories are pleasant, but the ability to remember whether vivid or partial, is a blessing that many individuals watch slip through their fingers. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 6.7 million people in America ages 65 and older that suffer from Alzheimer’s. In Northwest Louisiana, there are thousands of families that struggle with their loved one’s mental demise.
Since 2020, The Bridge Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center has helped citizens navigate their respective Alzheimer’s and dementia journeys. The Bridge, formerly known as The Alzheimer’s Agency of Shreveport-Bossier City, Inc., was renamed, rebranded, and relocated to the former office of the late Dr. Gary Booker and longtime benefactor. The Bridge’s Executive Director Paulette Freeman, board of directors, and staff are dedicated to the organization’s vision of creating a community where no one affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia makes the journey alone.
A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, The Bridge has been a beneficial point of contact for family members, healthcare professionals, and caregivers in Northwest Louisiana. Freeman explains, “Each person comes to us with a different set of challenges because everyone is at a different stage of their dementia journey with their family member or friend. We call ourselves “care navigators” because that’s what we try to do, we help navigate their way by providing resources, education, and support services.” Being that The Bridge is a local organization that’s not nationally affiliated, all funds raised benefit the citizens of Northwest Louisiana.
The Bridge’s services are free of charge and available to Northwest Louisiana residents affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia and their families and caregivers. Two of the most meaningful services that The Bridge offers are support groups for caregivers and families, and one-on-one coaching sessions. Support groups are a wonderful way for loved ones to see that they aren’t alone. “It provides much-needed social support because group members validate each other’s experiences. It’s a way to connect with people who have similar experiences that they may not find in their friends or even family. Our support groups are led by trained facilitators and are held throughout the community at various locations, days, and times,” says Freeman. The one-on-one confidential counseling and coaching sessions are led by licensed professionals to assist individuals and family members with the realities of their newfound journey.
The organization is also heavily involved with outreach in the community. They have a speaker’s bureau that covers topics such as Normal Aging vs. Dementia and Dementia Myth Busters. The Bridge can plan an Alzheimer’s Forum with groups, churches, and other organizations throughout Northwest Louisiana. They also offer in-person educational workshops every month for caregivers (later available on YouTube), and each November in recognition of National Alzheimer’s Month they offer an Education Conference for the public providing the latest information, care, and research. “Everybody knows somebody with dementia which is why outreach is important to us. Community awareness of dementia is a huge part of our mission,” says Freeman.
Each month, The Bridge provides individuals and their caregivers with several fun and engaging supervised activities to take part in. Because music plays a significant role in the lives of those with dementia, music is incorporated into various activities. Freeman explains, “The part of the brain that stores music memories is not affected until the very end of the disease so songs from the past are remembered. Gospel songs, hymns, 60’s and 70’s top hits are always a hit especially when we have musicians come in to play and sing with us.” She adds, “We are excited about two new programs coming up this summer which is the caregiver support group via zoom and a “Grandchildren’s Workshop.” I’ve been dreaming of this workshop ever since I came on board in March of 2021 because of my own story of my father with dementia and how to explain to the grandchildren how this disease can affect their grandfather’s behavior. His memory may not be intact but his love for them is forever.”
The Alzheimer’s and dementia road isn’t easy, but The Bridge is committed to being a helping hand in Northwest Louisiana.