The Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimer’s

Unfortunately, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s has grown exponentially in recent years, affecting people across the globe. In fact, the United States alone has an estimated 5.3 million people coping with the irreversible brain disorder according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Making matters worse, that number is expected to rise in the coming years as the senior- 65 and older- population grows.

Many individuals suffering with Alzheimer’s find care within their families. However, many families are not equipped with the time, resources, and money to adequately care for their loved ones. When a family cannot care for their loved ones, they usually entrust this task to a responsible caregivers and home care agencies.

While caregivers are hired for a variety of ailments, most will agree that caring for a client with Alzheimer’s is a unique and challenging job. In all reality, many caregivers may not even be equipped to care for an individual with Alzheimer’s, which is why many home care agencies have made it a priority to have an experienced Alzheimer’s caregiver on their staff.

The challenges associated with Alzheimer’s care can vary tremendously, but some aspects of care remain constant.

In this case, the client is an individual suffering from Alzheimer’s. There are many variables involved with each client, but some aspects of care are universal for the most part.

The Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimer’s First and foremost is the establishment of a routine. Studies have found that practically all Alzheimer’s patients function better when operating on a consistent daily schedule. This will create a preset sense of what is going to happen next. Many patients become more lucid at certain times during the day. By knowing this, you can plan any major activities during this period of time to avoid any unnecessary confusion.

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.

After a routine is established, you can focus on the client’s feeling of independence. Essentially, you want to encourage your client’s independence as much as possible to increase overall functionality. One of the best methods is a technique referred to as “graded assistance.” This is where a client attempts a task with as little help as possible from the caregiver. Assistance can come in a variety of forms including verbal ques and physical demonstrations.

There are many other aspects of care that are relatively universal, but I’m going to finish up by discussing one more particularly important part of Alzheimer’s care- daily activities. This can be virtually anything ranging from mentally-stimulating brain games to physical exercise.

However, it is important to pursue activities that are enjoyable not just for the client, but for you (the caregiver) as well. A few good examples include board games, card nights, or even just a nightly walk around the neighborhood.

The Caregiver

As a caregiver, you have complete responsibility for your client’s safety and wellbeing. A family has placed their trust in a home care agency that put that trust into you. Therefore, you need to be prompt, adaptable, and compassionate.

Origin of the term Alzheimer’s disease dates back to 1906 when Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German physician, presented a case history before a medical meeting of a 51-year-old woman who suffered from a rare brain disorder. A brain autopsy identified the plaques and tangles that today characterize Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s clients typically have highly-structured requirements which can put a strain on even the most attentive caregiver. Regardless, in order to satisfy these requirements you need to operate on a flawless schedule. Most any home care agency would crumble if their scheduling wasn’t immaculate. To prevent scheduling mishaps, many agencies will install specialized home care scheduling software. Some clients may require one or two caregivers at any given point throughout the day. Therefore, a well-planned schedule will not only prevent staff mistakes, but also instill a sense of normalcy and routine into your client.

Today, Alzheimer’s is at the forefront of biomedical research.

Researchers are working to uncover as many aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias as possible.  Ninety percent of what we know about Alzheimer’s has been discovered in the last 15 years. Some of the most remarkable progress has shed light on how Alzheimer’s affects the brain. The hope is this better understanding will lead to new treatments. Many potential approaches are currently under investigation worldwide.

Some clients require specialized needs on a day-to-day basis. In many situations, a caregiver capable of or qualified to handle these needs can be hard to come by. In fact, some agencies have staffed caregivers that have been trained specifically to handle the varying needs of Alzheimer’s clients. Others may have a program in place that can allow them to locate caregivers that meet certain criteria. If a caregiver is hired that lacks necessary skills, the client’s safety and wellbeing may be jeopardized.


Dr. Maria Miller,
UCSF Memory and Aging Center

Provided by ArmMed Media