National Caregivers Month: Compassionate Caregiving for Persons with Alzheimer's Disease

 

November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to celebrate and recognize the estimated 44 million caregivers throughout the United States. At the Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging, we would like to honor all of the caregivers that are providing care to persons with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Caregiving can be a stressful experience for both the caregiver and the care receiver. Understanding how to incorporate compassion into the caregiving experience can help alleviate some of this burden.

Compassionate caregiving refers to care that promotes and allows persons with AD to flourish by improving the dyadic relationship between the caregiver and persons with AD. It is achieved by focusing on the physical and mental health of persons with AD including neurological, cognitive, general health and psychosocial factors, and also factors that are more dynamic, such as the physical and social environment and the changing needs and states within persons with AD. Improving the dyadic relationship between persons with AD and their caregiver contributes greatly to improved physical and mental health outcomes.

As a caregiver, how can you incorporate compassion into your caregiving for persons with AD? 

  • Focus on your loved one’s emotions. Sometimes orienting a person with AD to reality can be overwhelming for them. Instead of focusing on reality, focus on the emotions that they are exhibiting.

  • When speaking, talk in a calm and reassuring voice. Using this form of communication can be calming for a person with AD. 

  • Use compassionate touch.  When communicating with your loved one, hold their hand or gently touch their shoulder. 

  • Incorporate the past into the present. If your loved one enjoyed specific music or activities, incorporate this into your time with them. Engaging them in activities that they enjoyed in the past can be calming for them. 

More generally, here are some tips for caregivers from the Caregiver Action Network:

  1. Seek Support from other caregivers
  2. Take care of your own health
  3. Accept offers of help
  4. Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors
  5. Be open to new technologies
  6. Watch for signs of depression and don’t delay professional help and support
  7. Caregiving is hard work and taking breaks (respite) is essential
  8. Organize medical information
  9. Make sure legal documents are in order
  10. Give yourself credit for doing the best you can, doing one of the toughest jobs!

Looking for more resources on caregiving? Reach out to the Institute by emailing Sam Cotton at [email protected]. Also, the Caregiver Action Network and the Administration for Community Living, with its local division called the KIPDA Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, are useful resources for caregivers and caregiving support programs.


Blog Contributor:   

Sam Cotton, PhD, MSSW
GWEP Program Manager
University of Louisville
Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging 
[email protected]

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