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ADRC helps people with dementia find needed resources

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When someone has a form of dementia it can become stressful for he or she and their loved ones to figure out legal matters and how to financially support caregiving help that may be needed. However, help is available to them.

St. Croix County Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) dementia specialist Nancy Abrahamson said the ADRC tries to help people with dementia stay in their homes as long as possible.

"When people become isolated, they lose function more quickly," Abrahamson said. "We want people to be social and maintain their activities."

St. Croix County ADRC caregiver support coordinator Tara Murdzek said grants are available to St. Croix county residents specifically designed for dementia caregivers. Murdzek said caregivers who are interested in applying for the grant can come to her for help.

"I sit down and fill out the intake form, very painless," Murdzek said. "I do all the work."

In St. Croix County, the most someone can qualify for with the Alzheimer's Family and Caregiver Support Program (AFCSP) grant is $4,000 per year; this money can be used for a variety of things, which she can go over with people. Most of the grant recipients use the money for the same thing.

"Most use it for respite," Murdzek said. "They have a home health aide come to the house, so the caregiver can get away."

In order to qualify for the AFCSP grant, Murdzek said the person must meet financial guidelines and must have a dementia diagnosis from a doctor.

Also, someone with dementia can apply for the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) grant. There are no financial guidelines for this grant, but the person must be 60 years of age or older and need help with at least two daily living activities. She said most people who receive this grant use it for light housekeeping; it is a maximum of 112 hours per year.

Murdzek said no person can receive both grants at the same time. If the person is on Medicaid it could affect his/her eligibility. The best way to determine eligibility is for St. Croix residents to call the ADRC at 715-381-4360.

Pierce County ADRC social worker Michelle Meinan said availability of grant funding may vary by county, but anyone in Pierce County who is interested in finding out more should contact the ADRC at 715-273-6780.

In addition to helping with financial support, Meinan said the ADRC can also help people navigate through the legal matters of filling out power of attorney (POA) forms, guardianship paperwork and even Medicaid applications.

"A big part of what we do here is to help people become qualified for Medicaid home-based services," Meinan said.

Meinan said all people should consider filling out POA paperwork, especially those with the earliest signs of dementia. The ADRC can help people fill out the paperwork so that if the time comes when they cannot make their own decisions, someone will have the ability to make decisions for them.

"When people have memory concerns we help them with POA," Meinan said. "[Then] the family can have the authority to follow through with their wishes."

Murdzek said sometimes people don't realize that even if they have a will, a POA is separate. By assigning a POA a person can make sure someone he/she trusts is determining what should happen.

Also, Murdzek said people need to understand that just because POA paperwork is filled out and signed does not mean that it will be in effect. As long as a person is able to make his/her own decisions safely, he/she can continue to do so. If the person reaches a time when he/she can't make decisions, two doctors must sign off saying the person is unable to make decisions before the POA will be activated.

Meinan said POA paperwork should be filled out early if someone is starting to have memory issues because POA paperwork can only be filled out if the person is still able to make his/her own decisions. If the memory loss is too far progressed it may become necessary for the caregiver to seek guardianship which means the caregiver would have to go through the courts to get authority to make decisions for his/her loved one.