HCN News & Notes

Dementia Friendly Holyoke Expands Support for Spanish-speaking Caregivers

HOLYOKE — Thanks to a grant received by the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, the Dementia Friendly Holyoke collaboration is strengthening its services for local Spanish-speaking individuals who are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or related dementias.

The grant from the Tufts Foundation will specifically fund Cuidadores Unidos, a Spanish-speaking caregivers support group that meets monthly at the Holyoke Senior Center. This group formed in the fall of 2018 after its participants attended a caregiver skill-building training offered by WestMass ElderCare (WMEC) called Cuidando con Respeto. Having bonded through this training and the shared experience of caring for their loved ones, these participants decided to continue meeting regularly for the much-needed mutual support the group brought them. Now, a year later, Cuidadores Unidos has clearly answered a need and has grown to a vibrant community of 25 self-directed and self-governed caregivers. In addition to Cuidadores members, participants in the Spanish-speaking caregiver support group Grupo de Apoyo de Demencia in Springfield will be invited to participate in the expanded programming.

“Dementia affects the Latino population at a rate of about one and a half times that of the white population,” said Roseann Martoccia, executive director of WestMass ElderCare, one of the partner agencies of Dementia Friendly Holyoke. “This makes the Cuidadores Unidos a really crucial initiative for the underserved Spanish-speaking population in greater Holyoke.”

In addition to funding continued support group meetings, the grant from Tufts will provide educational and self-care opportunities for its caregiver participants.

“Cuidadores Unidos provides caregivers the opportunity to share their personal stories and coping strategies, while establishing helpful relationships with those who share their experiences,” said Olga Lydia Yanginski, a WMEC community options counselor who has served as a resource to this group. “It really helps our participants know that they are heard, and not alone.”