Bob DeMarco Alzheimer's Reading Room

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some Doctors Do Understand


Given all this, and knowing how hard it is to be a caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient, I cannot imagine how much MORE difficult it must be without a doctor with true empathy.....
By Max Wallack

When I read Why Doctors Don’t Aid Caregivers, I realized how horrible it must be to be dealing with a family member with dementia; especially when the doctor does not understand what the caregivers are going through. Clearly, Great Grams’ doctor was not like that at all.


It was because of the wonderful, supportive care that Great Grams received at Mclean Hospital that she was able to stay at home with her family until the last few weeks of her life.

Families members are included in meetings for all inpatients at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. The meetings are attended by physicians, psychologists, social workers, and family members. Family members are honestly told the grave statistics of the toll on caregivers.

If caregivers are up to the challenge of caring for their family member with Alzheimer’s, then they take them home. Fortunately, there are lots of supports in place to help them. Adult Day Care in various settings are discussed to find the best possible solution for the patient and the caregiver.

In our case, monthly visits back to Mclean, for both the patient and the caregiver, were important to make sure the needs of both were being considered. Counseling for the caregivers and support groups for the caregivers were suggested and offered.

Doctors were on call 24/7, and they would return phone calls right away. One physician even answered emails at late hours, usually within minutes. Medications were constantly reevaluated. Social workers would telephone to check on how things were going.

I even heard that at one of Great Grams’ last visits as an outpatient, she slept through the entire meeting. Yet, the meeting between the doctor and my grandmother, the primary caregiver, was beneficial.

Just as Bob DeMarco says he needs to let his mom use his brain, the doctor needed to treat Great Grams through my grandmother. Sometimes the caregiver just has to "stand in".

Given all this, and knowing how hard it is to be a caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient, I cannot imagine how much MORE difficult it must be without a doctor with true empathy.
Max Wallack is a student at Boston University Academy. His great grandmother, Gertrude Finkelstein, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Max is the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER , a 501(c.)3 charitable organization. PUZZLES TO REMEMBER is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and other institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.
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Original content Max Wallack, the Alzheimer's Reading Room