Alzheimer’s disease has been in the news a lot recently. First, we learned that the problem may be many times greater than currently reported since cause of death is often identified as something other than Alzheimer’s, even when that is the primary diagnosis of the individual. Getting a new perspective on the scale of this problem today and the nearly inconceivable scale of it in the future will hopefully provide some much-needed impetus for funding and focus on better intervention, medication to delay advance and ultimately on a cure.
In the news as well has been new advances in understanding the nature of the disease, from how it changes the brain to how it seems to affect the functioning of some individuals far more significantly than others, even though they have similar brain changes.
Today a news story was posted on Newsweek.com titled “For Caregivers, Alzheimer’s Can be a Life Sentence.” The article starts by describing some work done by Mary Mittelman of NYU’s School of Medicine to “give families and people with Alzheimer’s…a sense of normalcy,” and continues to describe the experience of the more than 15 million family caregivers.
Supporting those who care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease has long been a focus of mine personally, as well as a focus for our training programs here at IPCed. Professionally, I’ve been involved in this field for over 30 years. I continue to volunteer as a family support group facilitator for my local community hospital, talking to those exact individuals described in this story and hearing their pain – and their joy – on a monthly basis.
Stories include that of the 60+ year old woman who recently married someone she believed would be her companion into later life, traveling and experiencing these “golden years” together. Now, she’s the primary caregiver for her husband with rapidly advancing dementia. She feels cheated; unsure whether she’ll even be able to stick it out with him.
Other stories include a new group member who is also caring for a husband with recently diagnosed dementia. She says, “He’s my best friend. Even if we weren’t married, I’d be caring for him or helping him with whatever he needed.”
As family and professional caregivers learn skills through training classes, both formal and informal, they find easier ways to navigate the most common challenges of communication and daily care. They understand better the disease and the progression as they get more confident that they’re doing “the right thing” and the guilt of constantly second-guessing their actions fades away.
Caregiving CAN be incredibly challenging. At the end of the day, however, those caregivers who better understand the disease and have learned better skills often say, “There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.”
To learn more about IPCed’s caregiver training for persons with Alzheimer’s disease please contact a Training Specialist for a FREE PREVIEW of training courses.