Dementia is a degenerative disease that eventually affects a person’s ability to live independently. There are many types of dementia, although Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type. Delirium and depression can be confused with dementia and a thorough evaluation should rule out other causes of cognitive loss prior to making a diagnosis of dementia.
Although people with dementia often exhibit behaviors that are challenging for family and professional caregivers to manage, the behaviors are caused by damage to the brain and are not intentional. Challenging behaviors can be caused by unmet needs and may be a means of communication. By carefully observing what comes directly before and after a behavior, the caregiver may be able to determine the underlying need and learn how to alleviate the challenging behavior.
People with dementia need to be treated with kindness and with the knowledge that they can still enjoy life. Physical and chemical restraints should be used only as a last resort. There are many proven alternatives to physical and chemical restraints that are the mainstays of individualized care.
Activities of daily living are disrupted in those with dementia. As the dementia gets worse, family members and caregivers must step in an assist with personal care and household management. Individual and group activities can provide a sense of accomplishment and well-being.
Caregiver training is an essential component for anyone caring for a person with dementia. Family caregivers play a critical and often-overlooked role in the care of loved ones with dementia—especially in the early-to-moderate stages. Caregivers often experience stress, which does not abate simply by placing their family member in a care facility. In a facility, professional caregivers must be trained to view the person with ADRD in the context of a family.
Facilities built around a philosophy of person-centered care can have a profound and positive effect on challenging behaviors associated with dementia. Providing a safe, clean, home-like environment in which residents and staff work together has been shown to improve outcomes in those with dementia.
Caregivers—both family and professional—experience many ethical conflicts when caring for a person with dementia. Education and training in ethical decision making and conflict resolution are invaluable tools to improve the experience of those with dementia.
Caregiver Training and Support Services
AlzOnline: Caregiver Support Online
AlzOnline is part of the Center for Telehealth and Healthcare Communications at the University of Florida. It provides caregiver education, information, and support for those caring for a family member or friend with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias.
CJE Senior Life
CJE Senior Life provides caregivers with educational materials and resources that are applicable to many different caregiving situations. They address the risk of caregiver burnout by sharing expertise in dealing with the older adult population.
Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA)
FCA provides information, education, services, research, and advocacy for families caring for loved ones with chronic, disabling health conditions. They provide caregiving tips in person and online with resources listed by state.
National Council of Certified Dementia Trainers
The Council was formed to promote standards of excellence in dementia education for professionals and other caregivers who provide services to dementia clients.
Share the Caregiving
Share the Caregiving is dedicated to educating the caregiving communities about the effectiveness of the Share the Care model. Share the Care encourages ordinary people to pool their efforts to help ease the burden on family caregivers and help those without family nearby.
Strength for Caring (SFC)
SFC is a comprehensive website designed to provide family caregivers with a broad range of expert content and information, an emerging online community, daily inspiration, and much needed support.
Caregiver Media Group provides information, support, and guidance for family and professional caregivers. It publishes Today’s Caregiver magazine, the first national magazine dedicated to caregivers, presents Fearless Caregiver conferences, and offers a website that includes newsletters, online discussion lists, articles from Today’s Caregiver, chat rooms, and an online store.