How to Provide Alzheimer's Care at Home

A Frank and Intimate Conversation on
Caring for the Dementia Patient

Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's Disease: A Guide for the Home Caregiver

Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's Disease

A Guide for the Home Caregiver

From Dr. Peter V. Rabins, one of the nation's leading experts on the care and management of patients with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia

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Do you know where most of the millions of people who have Alzheimer's disease live? At home—where family and friends provide almost 75 percent of their care.

That's why caregiving has been called the fastest growing unpaid profession in the United States.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, during the past year more than 67 million Americans provided care to a family member, friend, or loved one, many of whom are suffering from different stages of Alzheimer's disease or some other type of dementia.

If you're a caregiver, you know first-hand what it's like: Getting swept up in a flurry of tasks—bathing, shopping, cooking, feeding, making arrangements for medical care, managing behavioral problems, making decisions for the ill person that you have never had to consider before—while simultaneously trying to cope with your own anxieties and fears.

Or perhaps you're facing a situation where you're likely to become a caregiver—and you're wondering how you can make the many difficult decisions that anyone who steps into this demanding role has to confront.

It's an extremely hard job—and often it feels like you're in it alone. But you're not.

That's why we asked two world-renowned Alzheimer's specialists—Dr. Peter Rabins and Dr. Ann Morrison—to write this practical, no-nonsense guide, Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's Disease: A Guide for the Home Caregiver.

Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H., founding director of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neuropsychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he is a Professor of Psychiatry, emeritus. Dr. Rabins is co-author of the bestselling guide, The 36-Hour Day. He also shares his wisdom and hands-on experience with Alzheimer's patients in a new in-depth Special Health Report, Diagnosing and Treating Alzheimer's Disease.

Ann S. Morrison, Ph.D., R.N., C.S., has been providing care for dementia patients and caregivers and lecturing nationally and internationally on the topic of Alzheimer’s disease research and care of the Alzheimer’s disease patient, caregiver, and family. Her research efforts have focused on dementia treatment, risk factors, and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease as well as on family and caregiver studies. She serves as an instructor, master clinician, and mentor for students from multiple disciplines.

Advice That's Practical, Compassionate and Authoritative

Reading Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's Disease is like sitting down with a wise and trusted friend and talking about the many issues you face: how to organize your home so it's safe, proper methods for managing your patient's personal care, like bathing, strategies to handle aggression and other behavioral problems.

You will also find guidance on some of the larger decisions you may face as a caregiver—from confronting the need to curtail a loved one's driving to the many considerations that surface in deciding whether to move someone to a nursing home or other residential care facility.

You'll quickly discover that what sets Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's Disease apart from other books is its warmth and deeply personal tone.

This 131 page report provides in-depth discussions on every essential topic where you can benefit from expert advice, including:

  • When It's Time to Take Away the Car Keys
  • Modifying the Home for People With Dementia
  • Personal Care for the Dementia Patient
  • Dealing with Alzheimer's Troubling Behavior Problems
  • Caregiving From Afar
  • When Caring Takes Its Toll on the Dementia Caregiver
  • Deciding to Move a Loved One into Residential Care

Aggression, Agitation, Shouting, Hallucinations ...
How to Handle Aberrant Behaviors

Many people think of Alzheimer's as strictly a memory-stealing ailment. But as a caregiver, you know that it may also unleash difficult-to manage behaviors. In our guide, Dr. Rabins addresses frequently asked questions on troubling Alzheimer's behaviors. For example:

  • What happens when an Alzheimer's patient becomes overwhelmed?
  • What environmental changes can trigger a negative reaction?
  • As a caregiver, what can you do to minimize catastrophic incidents?
  • How can you safely manage a patient who becomes physically aggressive?
  • Should you ever use physical force to deal with a behavior problem?
  • What causes vocalizations, such as yelling or constantly calling out?
  • What are the best tactics for handling delusions or hallucinations?

Caregiver Burnout Takes a Toll
Here's Help From Dr. Rabins

Feeling overwhelmed? Caregivers have been described as "hidden patients" because many of their own emotional and physical needs go unattended while they provide care to others. Perhaps you've wondered:

  • Will my bottled up feelings of frustration and anger lead to "stress-related illness"?
  • Is it wrong for me to feel angry while providing care for a loved one with dementia?
  • What should I do when my patient acts out in an embarrassing way in public?
  • Should friends and neighbors be told that a loved one has Alzheimer's?
  • How can I get over my feelings of guilt for wishing I didn't have this big responsibility?
  • I sometimes feel sad and discouraged and even begin to cry. What can I do?
  • I feel like I'm facing this all alone. Where can I find support?
  • I have trouble concentrating and don't sleep well. Could I be depressed?
  • Should my patient be included in the decision to move to a long term care facility?
  • How do I get over my feelings of grief now that I've placed my loved one in a nursing home?

Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's Disease discusses these and other caregiver concerns. And that's just the start.

When is it time to take away the car keys? Dr. Rabins explains why Alzheimer's patients lose the ability to drive and how you should address the driving issue. He explores:

What the car represents to an older person ... signs you should watch for when determining a loved one's driving competence ... how to find a driving rehabilitation specialist in your area ... how to initiate the conversation about driving competence with the Alzheimer's patient.

Modifying the home for patients with dementia. In this important chapter, Dr. Morrison discusses caregiver concerns, such as:

Is it safe to leave a person with dementia home alone ... why do so many people fall at home and how you can minimize chances of falling ... safety precautions in the bathroom and kitchen, two of the most dangerous rooms in the house.

Personal Care and the Dementia Patient. Bathing and dressing are two of the most demanding daily chores for the caregiver. Dr. Morrison provides practical, straight-talking advice, including:

How to prepare the patient ... what's better: bath or shower ... how to bathe the resistant patient ... washing "private parts" ... getting over the embarrassment factor ... when is the best time to wash hair ... techniques to trim toenails and fingernails ... how often should you brush the teeth ... managing incontinence and much more.

Deciding to Move a Loved One into Residential Care. This is surely one of the hardest decisions a caregiver will face, and Dr. Rabins steers you through it with empathy and wisdom.

  • How can you deal with the guilt you may feel when it comes time to place your loved one in a facility?
  • How do you know when the time is right?
  • What are your options?
  • Internet resources
  • What happens if your loved one refuses to go into a facility?
  • What options exist to cover the cost of nursing home care?
  • Will Medicare or Medicaid cover the cost of a nursing home?
  • What are the key questions you should ask when choosing a nursing home?
  • How often should you visit?

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University of California, Berkeley,
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Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's Disease is published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. This publication and others like it are an outgrowth of the School’s commitment to help improve the health and wellness of our community of readers by publishing expert advice on prevention, diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of ailments and disorders. We provide trusted, authoritative health guidance from leading physicians and researchers at America’s top medical centers and hospitals.

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Your purchase of Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's Disease supports the School of Public Health faculty and students in their work to confront the major health challenges of our generation. A portion of every sale goes to funding scholarships. Your purchase will directly benefit your own health as well as those in your community.

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