One of the most difficult aging challenges we face is to help caregivers manage Alzheimer’s disease. As the rate of Alzheimer’s disease rises along with the population of aging baby boomers, caregivers are facing the reality of providing care for seriously ill loved ones. It’s a serious and progressive disease and it’s important that we help caregivers manage Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease are on the rise and many of them occur at home. According to the Centers for Disease Control:
- The rate of deaths from Alzheimer’s disease increased 55% between 1999 and 2014.
- The number of deaths at home that were attributed to Alzheimer’s also increased from 14% to 25% during the same time period.
These statistics underscore the weight of responsibility that rests on the shoulders of Alzheimer’s caregivers. It can tax the knowledge and skills of even the most patient, well-educated family caregiver. That is why some of the most important services that a caregiver can have are education, respite care, and geriatric care managers. Together, they can help caregivers navigate the difficult Alzheimer’s care journey with increased knowledge, awareness, and support.
If you are the caregiver of a loved one with Alzheimer’s, it is important that you learn as much as possible about the disease. For example, there are three stages of Alzheimer’s; early, middle and late. Each carries with it distinct behavioral, personality, cognitive and physical changes. The more you know about these stages the more you will be able to anticipate them and find ways to cope with the symptoms. When you know what you are observing in a loved one’s behavior it is easier to help caregivers manage Alzheimer’s disease.
Good sources for information on Alzheimer’s disease include national foundations:
- The Alzheimer’s Foundation2
- National Institute on Aging3
- National Institute on Aging Senior Health4
- The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement5
Your loved one’s primary care physician or neurologist may also be able to give you helpful information. A network of support, including friends and caregiver support groups, are a good resource for camaraderie and understanding. Fellow caregivers understand what you are going through and sharing can help to relieve emotional burdens. Check with your local hospital to see if there is a caregiver’s support group in your area.
As a caregiver, you will need to take an occasional break from your responsibilities. It may be for an hour, a day or a week. It may be to meet with friends to renew yourself or take care of personal details like doctor’s appointments and running errands. Whatever the reason, respite care can provide care for your loved one while you take time off from caregiving duties.
Respite care takes different forms.
You can hire a professional caregiver to care for your loved one.
Assisted living facilities and memory care communities offer respite care. Your loved one will stay at their facility and receive care while you are gone.
Friends and/or family members can step in to provide care.
All of these give you important time for yourself. To increase your peace of mind while you are gone make sure to leave detailed notes for the caregiver regarding your loved one’s schedule and personal needs:
- Food preferences and allergies
- Medication doses and times
- Behavioral notes
- Level of cognition
- Things that tend to agitate your loved one and how to avoid them
Geriatric care management
One of the most important types of support that a caregiver can have is a geriatric care manager. These professionals are experienced in a wide range of issues that need to be addressed if one is to remain a caregiver over the long term. Geriatric care managers partner with family members serving as caregivers and help them to make decisions in eight specific areas:
- Health and disability
- Financial matters
- Housing questions
- Resolving family issues
- Finding local resources
- Advocating for seniors
- Legal documents and questions
- Crisis intervention
If you are a caregiver of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease don’t go it alone. Seek the education, respite care, and geriatric care managers to help caregivers manage Alzheimer’s disease.