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Savvy Caregiver Course

Preparing families for the unique and complex life of caring for a loved one

Confusion. Moodiness. Memory problems. Those were the day-to-day worries Angel Avery-Wright had to manage as her father’s caregiver. But after completing the “Savvy Caregiver Program,” sponsored by the Fleming Memory Center at Lehigh Valley Health Network, Avery-Wright feels more in control.

“I learned lots of new, useful information during the classes, and that my emotions relating to Dad’s dementia are normal,” Avery-Wright says.

Savvy Caregiver educates family and professional caregivers in basic knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to handle the challenges of caring effectively for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia including vascular dementia, the diagnosis of Avery-Wright’s father. This 12-hour course is delivered in two-hour sessions over a six-week period by elder life educator Wendy Scott.

Declining into a world of dementia

The 49-year-old Bethlehem resident has been taking care of her 75-year-old father, a retired letter carrier, whose dementia emerged about two years ago. Five years before, Avery-Wright’s father suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. She has seen a decline in her dad’s behavior, from repeating stories to needing help taking his meds, showering and getting dressed. A prostate cancer diagnosis further complicates things.

“Every other week there’s another issue,” says Avery-Wright. “People don’t understand this disease unless they’ve been through it.”

Family caregiving and support

Though Avery-Wright’s mother tries to take care of her husband, failing vision, coupled with the need for a hip replacement and other infirmities limit her ability. She has accompanied Avery-Wright to support groups that formed from the program. They provide a safe place to talk, she says. Avery-Wright’s goal is for her parents to move in with her.

“I’ve become more accepting of Dad’s behaviors since attending the Savvy Caregiver, and learned it’s OK to get frustrated,” Wright says. “I don’t know what I would do without the program or Wendy.”