Episcopal Retirement Services’ Parish Health Ministry (PHM) recently held its annual Refresh Your Soul conference. This successful, annual gathering serves both as PHM’s most important fundraiser, and as a point of inspiration for dementia care providers and family caregivers in Cincinnati.
But what is the Parish Health Ministry? What does it do? Why is it such an important cog in our local dementia care system?
PHM was founded in 1998 to promote health and wholeness in Episcopal Retirement communities, in partnering congregations and in the communities they serve. Since inception, the program has since served more than 135 Tristate congregations, offering members health and wellness activities and services.
A large part of PHM’s mission involves providing programmatic support to seniors and to dementia caregivers in our region. As you’ll see, that’s a large task.
There’s a national dementia care crisis
As the Baby Boom generation reaches peak retirement, incidence rates of age-related dementias (including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease) are at all-time highs. It is estimated that one in nine Americans 65 or older have Alzheimer’s dementia — that’s more than one-tenth of our entire senior population.
We help an estimated 10,000 Cincinnati and Tristate residents improve the health of their body, mind and spirit.
This has created a crisis in care provision for the people living with dementia. There are too few professional providers, too few community resources to help make up for the shortfall, and too heavy a burden placed on families to care for their own. More than 80 percent of the care hours provided to Americans with dementia in 2016 were unpaid, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
The majority of that burden falls on dementia patients’ female relatives, many of whom already struggle to balance careers with raising their own children. One study, published by the National Institutes of Health, found that “60% of unpaid caregivers are wives, daughters, daughters-in-law, granddaughters, and other female relatives.”
What kind of help does PHM provide to dementia caregivers?
Much. We help an estimated 10,000 Cincinnati and Tristate residents improve the health of their body, mind and spirit.
We help local congregations develop and enhance their own health ministries. We provide workshops and required continuing education hours for nurses and other healthcare professionals, training for volunteers and community resource liaisons for health ministries that need to arrange home health care and other services for their congregants.
And we help to amplify caregivers’ collective voice, raising awareness about the scope of need and advocating for greater community support for families dealing with dementia.
One of the people we’ve assisted is Allison Blankemeyer, who first attended our Refresh Your Soul conference in 2014.
Like so many, Blankemeyer has cared for loved ones with dementia. In her case, both her husband and her mother were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Under considerable strain, she searched. She listened to inspirational books on tape, including Eban Alexander’s Proof of Heaven. She joined a caregiver support group. And through that, she learned about Refresh Your Soul.
“The answer to our most pondering questions are always spiritual in nature,” Blankemeyer noted. “I got what I needed most in terms of help and hope.”
And she has become a regular attendee.
“I am so very grateful to Parish Health Ministry for organizing the Refresh Your Soul conference each year, for pulling in these amazing speakers whose stories are so inspiring and that are so filled with love and with healing,” she said.
Click here to watch her story. And, if you’re a dementia caregiver in Cincinnati or the surrounding Tristate area, know that you’re not alone. We’re here for you. We look forward to seeing you at Refresh Your Soul next year.