Caring for a Loved One With Alzheimer’s or Other Dementia

By Beth Lueders

Every three seconds, another case of dementia occurs somewhere in the world. Almost 50 million people worldwide are known to have dementia, which is the name for a group of progressive brain syndromes that affect thinking, memory, behavior and emotion. Among the over 100 forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most widespread, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases.

To help with dementia awareness and research and ease the stigma that dementia patients and their families often face, Alzheimer’s Disease International designates September as World Alzheimer’s Month, and Sept. 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day.

Caring for Someone With Dementia at Home

Although currently there is no cure for dementia, resources are available for family caregivers to support their loved ones living with the condition. Family caregivers also may consider enlisting specialized home care to help their loved ones remain at home in a familiar environment in which they are most comfortable for as long as possible.

To provide more extensive support to people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia, Right at Home partnered with a leading dementia expert, Jackie Pool, to develop a proprietary Cognitive Support Program. Debbie Friedman, Right at Home’s Director of Organizational Learning, summarized the three key components of the program:

  1. Focusing on Abilities

“We focus on a person’s abilities instead of disabilities,” Friedman explains. “We look for what someone can still do and give that person as much opportunity as possible to maximize what he/she is still able to do.”

  1. Teaming with Families

Friedman notes that caregiving for dementia and cognitive-challenged individuals is a “journey for families that should not be done alone. We coach families on how to better interact with their loved one.”

  1. Providing Person-Centered Care

Pool’s groundbreaking work with person-centered care directs caregivers to view the world through the eyes of the person with cognitive changes. “I describe ‘person-centered’ as learning what makes each of us unique snowflakes,” Friedman explains. “We all are different and we all have different likes. Who was the person before the disease? We need to understand what brings meaning and joy to each person and makes life worth living.”

Supporting People Living With Alzheimer’s or Other Dementia

“A diagnosis of dementia, Alzheimer’s or cognitive decline does not mean that life is over,” Friedman adds. “There are ways to continue having quality of life. Our Cognitive Support Program aims at helping people understand how to make that quality of life happen. Our goal is to give dementia clients and their families something to look forward to instead of something to dread.”