Helping caregivers cope with Alzheimer’s disease

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There may not yet be a cure for Alzheimer’s, but a new solution to help caregivers cope with family members who have the disease is now becoming available. Home Instead Senior Care is launching customized training for family caregivers who look after loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s disease at home.

The caregiver education program, two years in the making and free of charge, focuses on the care and dignity of the person and how to help him/her live a more fulfilling life. It is called Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Dementias CARE (Changing Aging Through Research and EducationSM) Training, and the intent is to help families remove some of the stress and dread associated with living with a loved one suffering from the disease.

The foundation of the training program is a technique called ‘Capturing Life’s Journey’ which involves gathering stories and experiences about the senior prior to their having the disease – where they were born, education, sports and hobbies, pets, family stories, how they met their spouse, information about their children, etc. This approach helps family caregivers, and ’s professional CAREGivers, provide comfort while honouring the person’s past. It also keeps seniors with dementia engaged in daily life by using their stories and experiences to provide comfort and support, and reduce the effects of behaviour that lead to unhappiness. The idea is to provide personalized care to promote mental stimulation, help manage difficult behaviours, and better engage the person with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

Dementia is the umbrella term for different conditions that cause the brain to fail, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form. According to research conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care network, families caring for seniors with Alzheimer’s at home deal with such challenging behaviour as delusions, anger, aggression, wandering, and refusal to eat.

“We know from our research and work in homes throughout the world that families have two significant challenges when caring for their loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias,” says Jeff Huber, President and COO of Home Instead Senior Care. “The first is keeping the mind of their loved one engaged, and the second is being able to manage behaviour that may include belligerence and aggression. By using this person-centred approach, the program empowers the caregiver to connect with the senior on a personal level, which benefits the senior and their families tremendously.”

Many seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia end up in the hospital. The Alzheimer’s Society in the U.S. says that dementia patients take up one in four hospital beds in that country, and the number of admissions is soaring. In fact, figures from 144 primary care trusts showed a 60 per cent rise in hospital admissions for dementia patients between 2006-07 and 2010-11. During the same time frame, the number of emergency admissions climbed by 12 per cent.

According to the experts, many of these hospital admissions and emergency visits can be avoided.

“The challenge is how to customize care for people with brain issues,” says Dr. Amy D’Aprix, a gerontologist and author, who was a member of the expert panel that developed content for Home Instead’s new Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias CARE Training Program. “Here is a professional training program for professional caregivers and family caregivers that is not just a couple of hours of training. It teaches caregivers how to provide a higher level of care that is customized so they can connect with the person who has dementia.”

The new Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias CARE training will be available to family caregivers through in-class training or e-learning sessions. It features four modules that offer family caregivers instructive information about Alzheimer’s and other dementias, as well as insight for providing better care, and techniques to help improve the quality of life both for the caregiver and the family member who has memory loss.

According to a 2010 Canadian study released by the Alzheimer Society – Rising Tide – The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society – the frequency and cost of Alzheimer’s will soon go through the roof. The study found that, within a generation, the number of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s in Canada will increase from 500,000 to 1.1 million. It also said the cost of handling the disease will rise from $15 billion to $153 billion, and the number of caregiving hours required will increase from 231 million to 756 million.

Home Instead’s free Alzheimer’s training for families will be available online and in local training workshops, and through Home Instead Senior Care offices across Canada. For more information, contact any of its 30 offices or visit www.HelpforAlzheimersFamilies.com.