Alzheimer’s Disease and Caregiver Burden

When someone starts having cognitive issues such as misplacing personal possessions, forgetting recent conversations and repeating themselves, families usually bring it up to the primary care physicians or a specialist for assessments.

Once the work up is completed and the diagnosis is given, the tough job is not only dealing with the diagnosis, but also handling the day to day challenges they confront from that point forward. It is already hard enough to see your loved one begin to lose the ability to perform their usual activities but also become someone who acts and behaves differently. They may exhibit behaviors that sometimes are uncharacteristic. This can be present in their eating, sleeping and social activities.

Initially, patients with Alzheimer’s disease are able to drive locally, pay some bills and perform their activities such as cooking, cleaning and taking care of their hygiene. They may repeat themselves and have difficulty finding the right words in the conversation, but eventually they will lose the ability to perform some or all of these activities. It is up to the family to recognize this very slow loss of the abilities and intervene when appropriate.

The caregiver’s burden begins when their love one starts getting lost while driving, forgets to pay bills or leaves the stove on after finishing the cooking. This becomes more difficult when the patient is unaware and unwilling to follow instruction and listen to the family’s advice.
When someone in the family suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, the safety and well-being of the patient is extremely important. When the behavioral manifestation of the disease starts to surface as the disease progresses, the caregiver faces new challenges. These can be refusal to eat, restless nocturnal activities such as walking around the house, waking everyone up, getting agitated, aggressive and paranoid behaviors. There might come a time when the patient does not recognize his/her house or even the family members.

In order to better manage this traumatic challenge of a lifetime, it is important to educate the family and support them by empowering them and showing them the best way to deal with the day to day challenges. I recommend family and professional help, support groups and working closely with your healthcare provider for the best results. It is important for the caregiver to be realistic about their abilities and get help when needed. The Alzheimer’s Memory Center has a support group to discuss these challenges and shares experiences to better care for our patients and caregivers. The group is held the third Friday of each month at our facility located at 7809 Sardis Road at 10am.