In many ways, Pahrump remains an ‘Old West’ town where cowboys walk the streets with guns slung around their waists in the “open carry” mecca of Nevada. Located an hour’s drive west of Las Vegas, the town of 35,000 still embraces the spirit of independence where citizens are expected to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.
It was into this culture of independence that Dementia Friendly Pahrump (DFP) decided it had to offer something the community desperately needed: a care partner support class for families navigating the challenges of dementia.
DFP members chose the 10-week CarePro: Care Partners Reaching Out education course because of its comprehensive education and support program. Two enthusiastic members from the DFP Community Action Group volunteered to teach the course in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, and worked in tandem with the Association’s Desert Southwest chapter for a spring 2019 launch.
But wildly independent Pahrump would not make it easy.
Despite a local newspaper, TV station, and radio outlet, the citizens of Pahrump share a familiar lament.
“For some reason it’s just really hard to get news to people,” says Jan Lindsay, who served as co-facilitator of DFP at that time.
Tonya Brum, one of the two CarePro volunteer instructors, agrees. “It doesn’t matter what is out there, how many outlets are used to notify the community, the one thing I always hear is ‘I didn’t know about this.’”
Potentially as a result of these challenges, the need for aging support in Pahrump remains high.
“We’re a town half full of seniors who need help,” says Jan.
And so to market the CarePro caregiver support course, DFP members used a divide-and-conquer, in-person outreach strategy to over 23 organizations throughout greater Nye County, assigning a volunteer to follow up with each one, and tallied the results on a spreadsheet.
“The Community Action Group worked really hard to spread the word about CarePro,” says Jan. “It was a significant outreach effort.”
Six family care partners completed the ten-week course, which included five in-person classes and five telephone coaching sessions on alternate weeks.
Co-instructor Karen Taylor says that hearing similar stories from others was extremely helpful to participants and “brought assurance that they are not on this journey alone, and need not take any of the sometimes painful outward expressions of people living with dementia personally.”
Since the course completion, Tonya has run into two of the women who took the class.
“Both commented on how much they got out of our class and how much they each enjoyed the interaction with the rest of the class,” she says. “Both are using the techniques we shared.”
Besides offering telephone support during alternate weeks, Irma Prettenhofer, manager of programs and services for the Alzheimer’s Association Desert Southwest, also made check-in calls each week and today continues to follow up with the participants. Tragically, two of the class participants lost their loved one soon after the course finished.
“I referred them to hospice and helped them through the difficult journey of letting go,” says Irma.
Karen says that after the emotional intimacy of sharing caregiving stories, many of the class participants are still in touch.
“CarePro gave them a common bond that far outlasted the ten-week session.” DFP is glad they worked so hard to bring this opportunity to town.