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Helping Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Are you caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease? Read on for tips and resources that can help you with the challenges.

Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias can be challenging. People with dementias may stop recognizing the person who is caring for them, can have trouble sharing their desires and feelings, and may become completely dependent upon their caregiver for daily activities such as eating, using the restroom, and bathing.

How Many People Live with Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are now the 6th leading cause of death overall and the 5th leading cause of death among those over 65 years of age. Today, close to 6 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s, and that is predicted to nearly triple by 2060. As the number of people with Alzheimer’s continues to increase so will the need for caregivers.

Caregiving for People with Alzheimer’s Disease

Recent data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System showed that those caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias have been caregivers considerably longer than caregivers of those with other health conditions. Depending on their health status, persons with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias can live for a very long time—up to 20 years following the diagnosis.

Caregiver holding the hands of an elderly man lying in bed.

Caring for people with Alzheimer’s can be challenging.

What Do Caregivers Need to Know?

Here are some suggestions for caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. These tips may help you cope with some of the unique challenges.

  1. You might not be recognized. Sometimes people with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia may forget certain people while remembering others. Try not to take it personally if you aren’t recognized.
  2. Try to meet the person where he or she is. It’s best not to correct an Alzheimer’s patient about what year it is, where they are, or other things. This can cause agitation and reduce trust.
  3. Routine is important. Alzheimer’s patients are usually most comfortable with what they know and are familiar with. Try to avoid major changes, and introduce new things slowly.
  4. Discuss behavioral changes with the doctor. Some behaviors, such as aggression, can be related to undertreated pain, or may be side effects of various medications.
  5. Above all, practice self-care. Your loved one needs you to be healthy, both physically and mentally, to provide the best possible care.

Resources for Caregivers

For caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias, there are programs available that can help enhance your skills as a caregiver. Dementia Dialogues is a program that began with the University of South Carolina’s Prevention Research CenterDementia Dialogues teaches those caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias about the signs and symptoms of the disease. The program also provides information about communication strategies and provides creative ways to solve problems that caregivers may face.

A list of links to educational programs for caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias is below. These programs can help you learn more about the health condition of the person you are providing care for and strategies to cope with challenges you might face. These programs can help you in your caregiving journey and improve the quality of life for all involved.

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