JARDINE: Turf war emerges after closure of Modesto Alzheimer's center

jjardine@modbee.comApril 24, 2013 

— When the DMC Foundation closed a few weeks ago because of financial problems, it left roughly 75 Miller's Place health care clients and 20 people with Alzheimer's disease with no place to spend their days.

As The Bee's Kevin Valine reported April 20, foundation management hopes to secure funding sources and reopen soon. But as always seems to be the case, there are stories within the story.

While the adults needing day care lost out — the DMC Foundation offered the only such service in the region — there are now two support groups for caregivers, and they don't get along.

The background: For nearly eight years, the Alzheimer's Aid Society of Northern California provided caregiver support in Modesto, maintaining an office in the building next to — and paying $1,900 a month in rent to — the DMC Foundation.

The location, in the 700 block of McHenry Avenue, was ideal because the caregivers could leave their charges at Miller's Place while their support groups met 30 yards away.

Caregiver support is a vital part of the Alzheimer's and dementia care system because caring for patients can be stressful. The support groups provide caregivers a place to share ideas, vent their frustrations and learn as much as they can from one another about caring for their friends or loved ones. Sometimes, they just need a break.

In February, the Alzheimer's Aid Society agency moved out of its space, consolidating all of its administrative functions in its Sacramento office. Max Perry, the Alzheimer's Aid Society's development chair, cited belt tightening in a tough economy.

"We couldn't see having a separate office in Modesto," Perry said. "We'd be broke if we had to have an office in every city where we operate."

The loss of the society's monthly rent not only added to the DMC Foundation's deepening fiscal woes, but also left the caregiver support group no place to meet.

Perry said his organization already had begun looking for other options in town, and today will begin holding sessions in the Sutter Health Memorial Building in McHenry Village. It also will resume sessions at Covenant Village in Turlock.

But when the society closed its office next to the DMC Foundation, some of its facilitators and caregivers felt frustrated by the consolidation to Sacramento. So, led by Cindy DenBrave, they are forming a new nonprofit, the Alzheimer's-Dementia Support Center, and are in the same space the society vacated three months ago.

"In their words, 'Make this an amicable split,' " Perry said. "I don't think they realized we weren't going to abandon Modesto."

The split, though, has been anything but amicable. DenBrave told me that many local caregivers distrust the society, and that money it could be spending here in Modesto is instead going to Sacramento.

In fact, they've quit talking. DenBrave is working to develop her organization while searching for funding.

The Alzheimer's Aid Society and the fledgling Alzheimer's-Dementia Support Center now compete for a relatively large pool of caregivers.

Therein lies the fallout from the DMC Foundation mess: The caregivers needing support now have two options. For the time being, at least, the Alzheimer's or dementia patients they care for have none.

Call (209) 577-0018 for information about the Alzheimer's-Dementia Support Center. Visit www.alzaid.org for information about the Alzheimer's Aid Society of Northern California.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com.

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