Caregiver Workshops Offered at the University of Chicago’s Memory Center

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"Impression Sunrise," Claude Monet, 1872
By Julia Pagnamenta

The University of Chicago’s Memory Center will host a series of free workshops in April for care providers of those with dementia.    

“The course is meant to alleviate pressure and empower caregivers,” explained Jeffrey Solotoroff, LCSW, a social worker at the Memory Center, also known as the University of Chicago Center for Comprehensive Care and Research on Memory Disorders. The clinic, located at 7101 Exchange, provides care for patients and families living with dementia and features a multidisciplinary team of specialists, including a neurologist, geriatricians, neuropsychologists, geriatric psychiatrist, social workers and a geriatric specialist nurse.

Titled “Workshop for The Caregiver Education,” the April courses are geared to address anxiety among caregivers. Solotoroff designed the workshops along with Gina Freed, MS, RN, the nurse clinician at the Memory Center, who specializes in the care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.  Educating the caregiver, they say, is essential because of all the misinformation that surrounds dementia. Patients often go undiagnosed for years because family and friends tend to misinterpret the signs.

Peggy Dunbar, 61, from Bronzeville, said she first overlooked the signs, such as having to constantly repeat herself, as a family member aged. Dunbar’s relative was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago and since then has received care at the Memory Center.

“As a caregiver you are human,” Dunbar said. “You need to know how to readjust your thinking to the people you are caring for.”

These days Dunbar has accepted her family member’s condition, and she is thankful to the clinic for helping her come to terms with the illness: “It’s opened my eyes,” Dunbar said. “So I am not in denial. I know what to expect.” She knows now not to be startled by sudden shifts in temperament, as patients with Alzheimer’s disease are prone to acting out.

Dunbar also learned that because patients tend to forget where they placed objects and money, she must not take accusations of theft personally. Dunbar’s anxieties also lessened when she joined the clinic’s support group where caregivers, such as herself, can relate and learn from each other’s experiences.

Upcoming workshops at the Memory Center are scheduled from 2 p.m to 4 p.m on four successive Mondays in April, starting April 4. Family and friends of patients with dementing illnesses interested in the workshops are encouraged to contact the workshop teachers at gfreed@medicine.bsd.uchicago.edu or jeffery.solotoroff@uchospitals.edu



The staff at the Memory Center includes the following:

James Mastrianni, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology and Memory Center clinic director
Shellie Williams, MD, assistant professor of medicine, geriatric and palliative medicine
Joseph Shega, MD, associate professor of medicine, geriatric and palliative medicine
Danielle Anderson, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience
Joseph Fink, associate professor of clinical psychiatry
Maureen Lacy, associate professor of clinical psychiatry
Jeffrey Solotoroff, geriatric social worker, Senior Health Center and Memory Center
Gina Freed, MS, RN, research nurse, geriatrics, Memory Center