How We’re Making a Difference
For an individual with Alzheimer’s, the disease eventually affects every part of his or her life. It also will significantly impact the lives of that person’s loved ones.
For example, a woman who once lived alone and was stubbornly independent now requires 24-hour supervision just to ensure her basic safety. Or an articulate, highly educated man does not even recognize his children, or becomes overwhelmed when choosing which shirt to wear. And the exhausted, anxious family members and friends struggling to cope with the responsibilities of Alzheimer’s care desperately seek the support of respite services.
No doubt, many of you are already well acquainted with Alzheimer’s disease; through your work, you’ve seen its effects on numerous individuals and their families. And you know that Alzheimer’s disease respects no boundaries. From a former President to the average citizen in our hometown, Alzheimer’s can strike anyone, anywhere.
In fact, it’s already ravaged the lives of five million older Americans. Maybe you’ve even grappled with the hopelessness and despair of Alzheimer’s in your own family. Regardless of your prior experience, though, we can all agree on this: those with Alzheimer’s disease always get worse and always end up needing full-time assistance with daily living.
So, what is Alzheimer’s disease? Alzheimer’s – the most common form of dementia – is a progressive, irreversible and incurable disease that causes the deterioration of brain cells.
It does this by creating a buildup in the brain of abnormal substances called amyloid plaques (which are harmful protein deposits) and neurofibrillary tangles – twisted fibers inside of brain neurons that inhibit their normal function.
As a result, people with Alzheimer’s typically exhibit behaviors such as anxiety, depression, short-term memory loss and withdrawal – with these early signs of the disease eventually progressing to more serious symptoms such as hoarding; pacing or wandering; restlessness; disorientation; and personality changes. In fact, the definition of the word “dementia” is instructive here. The term – a Latin word, which, when translated exactly, becomes “loss of mind” – means “an intellectual and social decline in functioning due to structural damage of the brain.”
While there remains no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, enormous advances have been made in research. However, treatments with dramatic results may still be several years away. In the meantime, certain prescription medications have proven successful in controlling the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. In addition, anti-inflammatory drugs; diets rich in antioxidants; regular physical exercise; and daily mental stimulation are considered reliable mechanisms for reducing a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s, or at least slowing down its progression.
Alzheimer’s disease primarily affects seniors. And, because our elderly population is exploding, the number of people with the disease is expected to grow at an alarming rate.
By the year 2050 there will be nearly 87 million people in the U.S. over age 65 – at which point people in this age group will comprise 21 percent of America’s total population. Because the incidence of Alzheimer’s increases from 3 percent at age 65 to nearly 50 percent after the age of 85, it’s easy to see why an additional 13-16 million people in the U.S. are expected to develop Alzheimer’s.
Despite this serious prediction, however, much progress has been made in the area of caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease. That’s the good news I’m here to tell you about. As you know, I’m with Home Instead Senior Care, a company that provides CAREGivers who go into seniors’ homes to help them with their non-medical tasks such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, errands – or just providing companionship.
Even more important are the supervision and security that CAREGivers can offer to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The mission of our local office, and that of the more than 400 other Home Instead Senior Care offices throughout the country, is to help seniors remain safely and comfortably in their homes. And, thanks to a special partnership Home Instead Senior Care has with a renowned Alzheimer’s organization, the company is also helping those with the disease stay home longer than ever before.
This unique relationship is with The George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers in San Diego, CA. The late Dr. Glenner was a world-famous pathologist, research physician and professor at the University of San Diego School of Medicine. In 1984, he isolated and first identified the beta amyloid protein now considered the primary cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Glenner and his wife Joy founded the nation’s first adult day health-care center for Alzheimer’s patients and their families. Today, Joy continues their work at the Glenner Centers, which offer adult day health-care facilities; caregiver training; family- and community-education; and an accredited School of Dementia Care.
Home Instead Senior Care has teamed up with this prestigious organization to develop the first training program of its kind for non-medical caregivers. This manual provides CAREGivers with comprehensive, practical training in caring for Alzheimer’s clients at home. The materials cover these topics:
• The pathology and symptoms of the disease;
• Understanding other diseases similar to Alzheimer’s;
• Building a relationship with a client who has Alzheimer’s;
• Working within the person’s physical surroundings;
• Managing his or her difficult behaviors; and,
• Helping the client remain independent for as long as possible.
Home Instead Senior Care uses a “train-the-trainer” approach to administer this program. This means that in a franchise, one person will be designated the local Alzheimer’s program administrator. The individual will complete this Alzheimer’s training program, after which he or she can train the office’s CAREGivers in Alzheimer’s care.
Testing is administered three times during the course, so these CAREGivers can immediately begin applying what they’ve learned. After completing the program, the CAREGivers will receive a Certificate of Achievement, which recognizes their accomplishments throughout the nationwide Home Instead Senior Care franchise network.
Home Instead Senior Care is thrilled with the results of this program across the nation. For instance, Ann LaReau of Wilmington, NC – the 2005 Home Instead CAREGiver of the Year for the Mid-Atlantic Region – works principally with clients who have Alzheimer’s disease. “For these patients, any waking moment can bring fear and confusion. Because of what Home Instead Senior Care has taught us, we’re really making life a lot better for the people we work with,” she said. “We’re up close and personal with these clients. Helping them to have a better day – that’s what I enjoy.”
So you can see that CAREGivers know the value of patience and helping Alzheimer’s clients do what they can on their own. This often involves maintaining a regular routine, and using a series of easily understood cues and prompts. The Home Instead Senior Care approach is to encourage ongoing communication between CAREGiver and client – for instance, emphasizing short, simple sentences; regular eye contact; and appropriate body language.
CAREGivers are even trained to help clients with Alzheimer’s disease when these individuals are moved to nursing facilities or to Alzheimer’s special-care units. A CAREGiver helps add structure to an Alzheimer’s resident’s day and helps minimize the time this individual will spend alone. More importantly, a CAREGiver’s presence can help reduce wandering and creates a safer environment for the person. In addition, CAREGivers recognize when clients have had too much stimulation and may be about to have what we refer to as “catastrophic reactions.” They can then adjust their approaches to help calm and reassure these clients.
But the best part of the Home Instead Senior Care Alzheimer’s CAREGiver training program is that the CAREGivers learn how to build solid relationships with their clients – relationships that allow them to adapt their care to meet individual client needs.
And, by helping those who are dealing with this disease, Home Instead Senior Care also serves as a resource and respite provider for family members and friends. In particular, families often serve as the main caregivers for their loved ones at home – a job that leaves many of those providing care exhausted and even depressed. So, along with helping Alzheimer’s clients live fuller lives, Home Instead Senior Care is also helping these family members enjoy their loved ones more fully.
No one knows better than you that when a person has Alzheimer’s, working with him or her can be a challenging experience – even for trained CAREGivers. But, tremendous rewards have come with knowing that across the country, Home Instead Senior Care has helped those with Alzheimer’s do the things they’ve always enjoyed doing – and in the comfort of their own homes. As a result, Home Instead Senior Care is justifiably proud of its groundbreaking Alzheimer’s CAREGiver training program.
CAREGivers from Home Instead Senior Care can make a difference in your life by providing companionship and support.