New USC program provides support to elderly

The USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and the nonprofit Youth Movement Against Alzheimer’s launched YouthCare on Tuesday, in an effort to provide resources to patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

According to the press release, this partnership is intended to help those in need and to change the lives of caregivers, students and patients.

“Our mission statement is to unite generations toward a common cause of fighting dementia and Alzheimer’s’ disease to ultimately not only spread awareness, but also look for care solutions and the burden of caregiving,” said Jay Gopal, the director of caregiving programs at YouthCare.

The program pairs undergraduate and graduate students from USC to work with and provide care to older adults with early-stage dementia. These students will work three-hour shifts once or twice a week, Gopal said.

According to the press release, the time the students spend with the patients will create a better sense of community and foster close relationships. The program has recruited over 20 USC students to serve as caregivers.

“YouthCare is an accessible way for students to interact one-on-one with older adults to understand the reality to put a face to Alzheimer’s and to work towards a solution,” said Sarah Wong, the president of the USC Student Gerontology Association. “The timely solution right now is to systematically treat the symptoms and that the future in caregiving will help as well.”

YouthCare founder Nihal Satyadev and Gopal, both UCLA alumni, began a similar program at UCLA in 2015 called TimeOut @ UCLA, which also focused on respite care and support for older adults.

Satyadev said that dementia caregivers in the United States face the problem of being unable to work for service providers that offer positions less than 10 hours per week.

YouthCare offers the option to work three or six hours a week at a low rate per hour, giving a reassuring opportunity for those caregivers who are still seeking employment.

“For caregivers, it’s really important for them to take a break from their stressful life in taking care of family members who have the disease,” Satyadev said. “Forty percent of caregivers who work with family members with dimensions are diagnosed with depression. We believe that this is a key mental health solution to decrease the rates of depression.”

Being involved with YouthCare allows students to develop a geriatric service skill set by having real-life interactions and relationships with Alzheimer’s patients, Wong said.

According to the press release, for the first time in history, about 20 percent of Americans will be in the age group over 65 in 2030. The number of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to drastically increase from 5.5 million to 11 million in 12 years.