My specialty is educating caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s dementia to better understand what is happening and why. Although I’m capable of having a conversation with you about the clinical side of this topic, I’ll leave that to the medical experts.
In my travels, I’ve come across countless numbers of “at home” caregivers that are in a serious learning curve. That’s to be expected and that’s why I do what I do. My book, Join the Journey-Care for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver, these articles, my Memory Care Minutes on the radio, the lectures I give and the Alzheimer’s Support Group that I Co-Facilitate are intended to help as many informal caregivers as possible. But who’s educating the formal caregivers?
In past writings, I’ve stressed the importance of insuring your loved one is seeing a specialist. Not only is it important for your loved one but it’s important for you. Imagine, you’re doing a great job with your loved one in every way. When Mom asks where dad is, you’ve come up with an appropriate therapeutic fib that works which avoids having to tell her he’s been gone for 3 years. However, when you take her to the Doctor and the subject comes up, he/she tells her her husband died. This same physician may also be the one that’s openly talking about her deficits and issues right in front of her, only adding to her confusion and perhaps agitation because she doesn’t appreciate being blamed or accused of doing things she doesn’t remember doing. Perhaps you’ve asked the doctor to be the one to tell dad that he should no longer be driving BUT the doctor refuses. Oh, and did you hear about the son that took his dad to their local hospital for a test and the physician refused because “the patient wasn’t cooperative.” I’d love to tell you that these are fictional examples; they aren’t. This is not to say that these men and women aren’t good physicians. I’m sure they all are. It’s just they haven’t learned the nuances of dealing with this disease known as Alzheimer’s.
I wish I could report that things were better for those on the front line of healthcare e.g. nurses and aides, but it’s not. I lecture every semester at The University of Rhode Island College of Nursing so I’ve seen first hand how comprehensive the training they receive is. That makes them the exception, not the rule. When I speak, I’ve asked nurse after nurse if they received any dementia specific training in school. The answer is usually “well, no but when I did my clinicals in school there were a couple of patients on the floor I worked on that had Alzheimer’s.” MD’s and RN’s get very little exposure in Geriatrics unless they choose it as a specialty. Dr. Rosenzweig in his book “The Harsh Realities of Alzheimer’s Care” states that only 1% of RN’s and 2.6% of APRN’s have a certification in Geriatrics. He goes on to say that only 26% of all Baccalaureate programs for Nurses have a Geriatric Certified Faculty member. As far as nurses aides are concerned, it’s really up to their communities to insure they understand the particulars of Alzheimer’s/dementia care. I’m glad to report that many States require them to receive special training before they may work in memory care.
Please know, I am not throwing the Medical Community “under the bus.” I’m reminding you that if you are taking your loved one to a Doctor, make sure it’s the right Doctor. If you’re placing your mother into a Nursing Home, insure their staff is well trained. Inviting “in home” caregivers into your/their house to give care? Make sure they’re trained. Being a caregiver of a loved one with Alzheimer’s requires a special set of skills and I’m sure that’s something many of you have already learned. Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Join the Journey