The Alzheimer's Caregiver

The other day I was talking with a woman - let's call her Amy - who has been her husband's primary caregiver since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's three years ago. Amy described her situation as being:

"…like a black cloud that follows you all the time because you know it's going to get worse but you don't know how you are going to deal with it."

Amy is not alone. As many as 5.3 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer's, according to the national Alzheimer's Association. That figure is expected to increase significantly as baby boomers reach the age of 65 and our country turns grey.

The responsibility of caring for those diagnosed with Alzheimer's typically falls on female family members like Amy. Their journey is often long and laden with obstacles.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia - a general term that describes loss of memory other mental functions - and destroys brain cells. Alzheimer's impairs memory, judgment, thinking and behavior. It is a progressive illness and while there is currently no cure, medications are available to slow the progression of the disease.

Now, let's go back to Amy's concern about not knowing how to "deal with it." The first step is acknowledging that you can't deal with it alone. Being a caregiver is a tough job but it can be particularly challenging when the person you are caring for has Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia.

Learn everything you can about the disease, treatment options, disease progression, legal and financial concerns, as well as resources in your area. And finding a professional caregiver to support you and your loved one is crucial as the disease progresses. So, how do you do this?

An Alzheimer's care giver is a special kind of person. This work requires a great deal of skill, knowledge, sensitivity, compassion, empathy, and patience - a good sense of humor doesn't hurt either! Asking the right interview questions of a potential caregiver will ensure that you find a good match for both you and the care recipient. Here are a few to help get you started:

How much experience have you had caring for Alzheimer's patients?

Tell me about the single biggest challenge you have faced while working with an Alzheimer's patient?
Why did you decide to work with this population?

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