College Students Launch Effort to Ease Caregiver Burden
BY LINDSAY WILKES-EDRINGTON
In a nation in need of more caregivers, what could be possible if we got more college students involved?
That’s the question Nihal Satyadev, the CEO and Co-Founder of the Youth Movement Against Alzheimer’s, asks himself every day. It’s also what has prompted Satyadev and his organization to launch YouthCare, a new respite care program that pairs undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology with older adults diagnosed with early-stage dementia.
YouthCare is a pilot project that offers three to six hours a week of low-cost care at a community clinic in downtown Los Angeles so that caregivers can get a needed break. Students will socialize, play games, and conduct art activities with the seniors. They will also receive training in the UCLA Longevity Center’s Brain Boot Camp memory education program.
“Through this social enterprise, our organization is looking to fundamentally change the landscape of Alzheimer’s care and reduce the burden caused by this disease for families and our healthcare system,” Satyadev says. “Our goal is to engage young people and expand respite care access to caregivers who currently can’t afford it.”
YouthCare recently won openIDEO’s Caregiving for Dementia Challenge as the Most Promising Idea amongst the challenge’s 250+ international entries. Satyadev says that the Youth Movement Against Alzheimer’s plans to launch YouthCare at other college campuses upon a successful pilot at USC.
He recently took the time to connect with The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and answer a few questions about this new forward-thinking program.
1.) What motivated you to start YouthCare?
Satyadev: YouthCare is based off a grant-funded model, TimeOut@UCLA, that our organization operated in partnership with UCLA Geriatrics for over 2 years. Our caregiver waitlist was at more than 4 times capacity. We had more students applying to volunteer than we could accept, and most importantly, three-quarters of caregivers said this program alone was all the break they needed. With just six hours a week, we found a win–win–win for older adults with dementia, their caregivers and students, who now have a skill development opportunity to work with our growing aging population. I simply could not let this program expire at the completion of the grant term. This was a model that needed to be on every campus in the United States. In order to sustain and scale the program, we created it as a social enterprise, YouthCare.
2.) What advantage do you see in tapping into youth talent to help fill our nation’s urgent caregiver needs?
Satyadev: Youth are at a special place during their college and early career years, as many of them are still trying to figure out their passion and what issues they want to invest their time in. Making them aware of our nation’s urgent caregiver needs through a hands-on service model will be sure to inspire many of them to pursue future solutions for caregivers. In addition, young people generally have more time to volunteer, and I believe we can massively expand care access through volunteer incentivization.
3.) What about this model makes respite care more affordable?
Satyadev: Primarily, we are leveraging student volunteers to lower our costs. We then are able to use the money that people pay for our service primarily to find a great venue, hire a nurse to oversee the program, and provide transportation for students to arrive at the venue on time.
4.) What type of training are students undergoing to prepare for their roles as caregivers?
Satyadev: Students are trained both in-person and take continuation lectures online. Our program materials are developed by Dr. Gary Small of the UCLA Longevity Center and Dr. Zaldy Tan from UCLA Geriatrics.
5.) Is this a model you hope can be adopted by more universities and organizations across the country? If so, how?
Satyadev: I absolutely believe our program needs to be implemented at several other universities. We are already in discussions about partnerships with other 4-year universities in LA, and we hope to eventually expand our model to partner with community colleges and even high schools. We are currently working on a mobile application which will allow for new YouthCare sites to be started and operated with ease.
6.) What inspired you to get involved in the Alzheimer’s and caregiving movement and what do you think it will take to inspire more young people to take on this important cause?
Satyadev: For me, it was personal. Watching my family struggle with managing my grandmother’s care needs when she was diagnosed with dementia was quite difficult. Yet, having the disease in the family is not always the motivation for students joining our movement. Many recognize that if our generation doesn’t find critical solutions right now for the growing aging population, and particularly the care costs associated with dementia, we are going to be facing the repercussions of a bankrupt healthcare system and country in our early 30s.
7.) For people who want to learn more about YouthCare or the Youth Movement Against Alzheimer’s, where should they go?
More Stories from Our Caregiving Community
In the WAM Weekly, we asked superstar Gerontologist and Chief of Geriatric Medicine at UC Irvine, Lisa Gibbs, MD, how the pandemic has impacted the millions of Americans caring for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia. WAM: Caregiving is stressful under the best of...
For Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and Family Caregivers Month, we asked some of our favorite WAM friends to tell us why they are engaged in the fight against Alzheimer's. Listen to their powerful and personal stories below that will capture your hearts and share...
Wanting to end the stigma and the stereotype that Alzheimer's is an old person's disease, a couple writes about their own journey into young-onset Alzheimer's in their new book, Four Umbrellas. In this excerpt, they detail Tony's diagnosis. From as early as 2011,...