DU Alumni / Magazine Feature / People

Alum’s site offers hope to family caregivers

Had Ed Menaker known then what he knows now, he says, his father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s might have been easier for him to deal with.

“I watched my mother try to take care of him by herself in their small home in Florida, and it took her about a year before she succumbed to the overwhelming stress and the things she had to do each day to care for him,” says Menaker (BA communications ’68). “At the time we just saw that as a function of aging, growing older. If I had seen a video of other people dealing with a similar situation, I think I really could have learned from it and understood it better.”

As development director and strategic planner at Chicago-based Terra Nova Films, Menaker is attempting to help others in similar situations with www.videocaregiving.org, a Web site that bills itself as a “visual education center for family caregivers.” The site offers free videos on a variety of topics, including strokes, falls, infection control and Alzheimer’s.

With an estimated 78 million baby boomers turning 65 in 2011, the need for such advice is critical, Menaker says.

“There are around 50 million people across the country who care for somebody in the home and who sacrifice their own work, their salary,” he says. “A lot of these people don’t even look upon themselves as caregivers. They see this as an obligation or something they do for their family — their father, their mother — it’s unquestioned. And yet they’re really dragged into a very difficult situation and a lot of times they don’t have a lot of information to deal with that situation.”

The site currently offers 22 free videos, mostly on Alzheimer’s and general caregiving. Menaker hopes to increase that count soon, and to expand into videos on multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and others. There are plans in the works for a Spanish-language site as well.

“Along with the aging phenomenon comes the caregiving phenomenon,” says Menaker, who came to DU on a baseball scholarship. “If all of this had to be paid for, there would be a collapse of the whole health care system.

“So [caregivers] are very important in the dynamic of this crisis in this country. We’re here to give people the help and the hope that they’re not alone. There are millions of others out there facing similar circumstances.”

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