Meet the Care Consultants

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Our Care Consultants. along with other staff and loved ones, at the Everett Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

It’s important for those impacted by Alzheimer’s and dementia to have a local resource for them to turn to when necessary. Our Care Consultants provide consultations to those in the Puget Sound area facing this disease. They’ve helped many in this journey, and now you can get to know them a little better!

Mandi Gundersen

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Mandi (Top Right) with volunteers at the Seattle Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Q: How long have you been with the Washington State Chapter?
A: One year

Q: What inspired you to become a Care Consultant?
A: The role of Care Consultant is a perfect fit for where I am professionally. My previous job experience has been primarily working with people with disabilities and their families, and my schooling is in issues related to aging.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a Care Consultant?
A: I love giving family caregivers the tools to re-frame their perspective in their caregiving situation. This disease turns a family’s world upside down, so empowering them to take control in a situation where there seemingly is none is extremely rewarding for me as a clinician.

Q: What is one piece of advice you have for Caregivers?
A: Caregivers often look to us for answers and advice, but I like to remind them that they are the experts in their loved ones’ care. Sometimes they need guidance, but they know their loved one better than I ever will. The one bit of advice that I do often give is for caregivers and people living with the disease to be compassionate and patient with themselves.

Alice Allen

Alice

Alice at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Q: How long have you been with the Washington State Chapter?
A: Eight months

Q: What inspired you to become a Care Consultant?
A: When I moved to Seattle I wanted to continue my many years of invested work with Family Caregivers; the Alzheimer’s Association seemed like a great place to start!  The affects of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia’s are devastating but I am constantly humbled by the people I meet who strive to live well with this disease and the family members who tenaciously care for them. It is these people that inspired me to become a Care Consultant and be a small part of the big fight against this disease.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a Care Consultant?
A: My favorite part is meeting the families that I work with. A really important part of this role is going into people’s homes and listening; listening to what is important to them, listening to their hopes and wishes for the future, listening to their concerns and then discussing the best way we can support them in their caregiving journey- no two families are alike!
I also like knowing that I am part of a bigger picture; Alzheimer’s research is making great progress in searching for better treatments, early detection and prevention and the Alzheimer’s Association plays a huge part in these major advancements. Preventing and curing this disease is just as important as supporting and empowering those that are affected by it right now.

Q: What is one piece of advice you have for Caregivers?
A: Plan for your own care! Visit your doctor for regular checkups and pay attention to the signs and symptoms of stress. It’s easy to abandon the people and activities you love when you’re mired in caregiving, but caregivers risk their own health and peace of mind by doing so.

Estela Ochoa

Estela

Estela with our chapter mascot, Hedgie.

Q: How long have you been with the Washington State Chapter?
A: Eight years and four months

Q: What inspired you to become a Care Consultant?
A: I was inspired to be a care consultant because my previous job experience has been working with people with dementia at Full life for over 12 years. I was frustrated with CG’s to see how they do not understand their love one behavior, they blame them “My Mom is so stubborn”. I also had the opportunity to work with the Alzheimer’s Association El Portal Program.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a Care Consultant?
A: Working with the Latino community gave me the opportunity to educate them about disease progression and plan for the future. In our culture we believe that we have to care for our loved one no matter what. I love giving family caregivers the tools to re-frame their perspective in their caregiving situation. Helping caregivers to get access to education and services is extremely rewarding for me as a clinician.

Q: What is one piece of advice you have for Caregivers?
A: I advise caregivers to ask for support and assistance from family and friends, building a care support for them. Taking control of the situation and not feeling guilty if they have to place their loved one in a long term care facility. I like to remind them it’s OK to ask for assistance to reduce stress and improve their health and well being of the family. Sometimes they need guidance and support understanding the disease progression.

Hannah Wishnek

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Hannah at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Q: How long have you been with the Washington State Chapter?
A: Five months

Q: What inspired you to become a Care Consultant?
A:  In my work in the dementia and aging field, I have seen caregivers as the ‘invisible patient’. Caregivers often need just as much support as the individual with memory loss, but they are so frequently overlooked. I want to provide caregivers with the knowledge and support they need so that they can feel confident in providing care for their loved one.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a Care Consultant?
A: I love being able to make caregivers’ days (even just a little) better. Whether it be through providing tips on responding to difficult behaviors, getting respite services set up or helping a caregiver make plans for the future- it always feels good to be able to connect caregivers with resources that make a tangible difference in their lives.

Q: What is one piece of advice you have for Caregivers?
A: You are not alone! Providing care to someone you love can be isolating, but there are so many individuals doing this very thing throughout our community. The best piece of advice I can give to caregivers is to connect with others who understand what they are going through. There are support groups, social events, and online forums they can use to connect with others in their position, and our staff is always just a phone call away if a listening ear is needed.

Katya Strohl

Katya Adv. Day

Katya (Right) at 2017 Advocacy Day.

Q: How long have you been with the Washington State Chapter?
A: I have been with the Association as a Care Consultant for 1.5 years.  Before that I was a early-stage memory loss support group facilitator for 2 years and an intern for 6 months in 2014.

Q: What inspired you to become a Care Consultant?
A: First off caregivers are some of the best people in the world– they often times sacrifice so much of themselves to care for someone important to them.  In my mind, one of the most overlooked parts of being a caregiver is the way a disease shifts a family.  When someone comes down with an illness and needs caring, a caregiver’s life changes physically and emotionally.  I have watched spouses struggle as they figure out how to not only reconnect with their partner, but also fill their roles in the family, either as a parent, friend or other relative.  Similarly, I have watched adult children caregivers figure out how to go through a hard time in their life, without a parent’s counsel.  Watching as families, both by birth or choice, come together, redefine their roles and care for someone they love is inspiring.  It is a humbling an honoring position to walk along side family caregivers as they make this adjustment.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a Care Consultant?
A: I have two…  First off, I love being able to offer a free service to family caregivers.  It is overwhelming and expensive to help someone age at home AND it feels good to be able to offer caregivers a Dementia Consultation at no cost to them.  Second, I love all of the innovative ways caregivers adapt, enhance and include people with dementia as they progress through the disease. So many caregivers are great at creating systems to keep their loved one as independent and safe as possible at home.

Q: What is one piece of advice you have for Caregivers?
A: Don’t forget to laugh.  This disease is a marathon, not a sprint, and while your relationship is changing– you still have a deep emotional connection with the person you are caring for.  Enjoy your time together as much as possible.
To learn about all of our resources, visit alzwa.org. 

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