Education & Training for Caregivers
Many times, for people with Alzheimer’s disease, their caregivers come about by default - family members or close friends help the person with things they can no longer do for themselves, they check in with them, and they move in and assist with daily needs. Especially in the early stages, when caregiving is mainly about support and companionship, caregivers may not realize the full extent to which they may be needed. As time goes on and the disease progresses, more duties and responsibilities may be necessary. Continually learning about Alzheimer’s disease is helpful to anticipate any issues that may arise or treatments that may be an option, and to be aware of skills that may need to be learned.
If someone falls into the role of being a caretaker for a person with Alzheimer’s disease, there are a few things one can do to help make things easier.
Put a network into place
Establish a network of support – for the caregiver and the care recipient. Especially if the person is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, see if there are friends or coworkers who will spend time with the person and check in with them so that the caregiver can have some time for themselves and take the time to learn more extensively about the disease and responsibilities of caretaking.1
Learn about the disease
It’s important for caregivers to know as much as they can about Alzheimer’s disease. Knowing the course of the disease, what symptoms can arise, possible complications, and ways to manage, cope, and adapt to challenges that come up can make things less difficult for both caregiver and care recipient. Being aware of symptoms and warning signs can also be helpful in when to call the doctor for problems. Websites, books, support groups, and the person’s doctor are all excellent resources to seek out. Ask the doctor what websites are reputable and if there are any local caregiver groups that can be joined.
Seek out caregiver resources
Even if a caregiver doesn’t have professional training, there are lots of resources and workshops a layperson can take to acquire knowledge and skills to assist them with caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.
Don’t forget about support groups for caregivers as well – caregiving is a demanding job, so it's helpful for caregivers to stay physically and emotionally healthy. Support groups are a great way to reduce stress and learn from fellow caregivers.
Know when to ask for help
If a trained professional is necessary either part-time or full-time, know when to ask for help. It is not a failure on anyone’s part if a professional caregiver or other healthcare provider needs to come in and either provide supplemental training or care, or needs to take over from a lay caregiver. Sometimes this also looks like meal delivery services or respite care.2 What’s most important is that the person with Alzheimer’s gets the care they need, and if a caregiver realizes they need support from a professional, that’s okay. Talk to the person’s doctor about when professional help might be necessary, and what signs to watch for.