Caring for the Caregiver
Becoming a caregiver for a person suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementing condition is a long-term process and a demanding one. Just as a caregiver adapts to one set of behaviors that challenge their resources, another set of behaviors arise and the caregiver must switch strategies. In fact, the caregiver will go through a predictable series of stages including shock, denial, reaction, mobilization, and finally coping. Even as caregivers are taking care of their loved one, it is important to make sure that they are doing everything possible to take good care of their own health and well-being. Healthcare professionals who interact with caregivers of dementia patients need to be sensitive to the special needs and demands placed on caregivers as well as their special concerns, so they can do whatever possible to promote the caregiver's healthy lifestyle. This course, “Caring for the Caregiver” will help sensitize healthcare professionals to these special needs, demands, and concerns. Healthcare providers will learn strategies they can teach their caregiver patients that have helped other caregivers. They will learn of the unique issues related to both physical and emotional health of caregivers to which they must be attuned to be effective in working with them. The course reviews what can happen to the so-called “hidden victims of AD”. Healthcare providers need to be aware that the physical demands of caregiving can lead to severe fatigue, difficulties sleeping, and poor eating choices. The emotional demands can lead to anger, stress, guilt, depression, and feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and fear. The course also discusses the five stages of grief that caregivers typically go through – grief over the loss of their loved ones as they once were before they were robbed of their personality. This grieving usually takes place many years before the individual actually dies of the disease. Being aware of the continually shifting and changing feelings experienced by caregivers can help the healthcare professional interact more effectively and sensitively to the caregiver. The healthcare professional can help the caregiver who risks becoming isolated and lonely to connect with needed resources. Healthcare professionals will learn that as the disease progresses, the behavior of AD patients will conform less and less to the caregiver’s expectations. They will become better able to assist the caregiver in accepting this frustrating fact and come to terms with behavior that is unpredictable and at times socially unacceptable. Healthcare professionals can evaluate the caregivers’ skills: their ability to organize, their physical stamina, emotional stamina, ability to deal with boring, repetitive, and unpleasant tasks, and their ability to effectively manage the rest of their lives, and can refer them for social and other support services where necessary. Since caregivers suffer from depression at a higher-rate than non-caregivers, healthcare professionals will become sensitive to signs and symptoms of this condition. The course will also help healthcare providers assist. caregivers in dealing with feelings such as anger, shame and embarrassment, self-pity, and guilt by using the techniques of Rational Emotive Therapy (RET). It will help the healthcare professional to know when referral to a mental health professional would be useful. It will also provide a checklist of activities the healthcare professional can share with the caregiver to help ensure the caregiver’s needs are being met.