Oct 25, 2010

Finally, a Program to Help Alzheimer’s Disease Caregivers!

By Max Wallack
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal tells about a caregiver support program at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

The story of Leonard and Jean Georges is told by columnist Craig L. Moran. Leonard has Alzheimer’s disease.

Leonard’s life work was helping turn around businesses that were in financial trouble. About six or seven years ago, Jean noticed that Leonard seemed to be taking on some near impossible business ventures, yet, she just assumed that Leonard was feeling secure in his retirement and willing to expose himself to more financial risk. Jean never even considered the idea that Leonard’s increasingly poor judgments had a medical cause.

Jean said,
“You’re always making excuses for strange behavior when someone you love starts to act strangely.”
After a 60 year harmonious marriage, Jean found her life filled with conflict and Leonard filled with agitation. Doctors told Jean that Leonard’s behavior was “a normal part of aging”. Even when Jean suggested that Leonard might have Alzheimer’s, doctors told her that Alzheimer’s could not be confirmed until after death.

About two years ago, Jean sought medical attention for herself at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. She was feeling very tired, and, soon after, had a heart attack. According to Craig Moran,
“The doctors there told her that if she wanted to live, she could no longer care for her husband. The stress, they said, would kill her.”
Jean says, “The most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life is put my husband in a home.”

The new program at the Ruvo Center’s goal is to “help spouses adapt better to the challenges of the disease in a loved one, so they, too, don’t become ill.” Susan Hirsch, director of social services at the Ruvo Center said, “Too often we see where caregivers become ill and depressed, and we think this program can be a real help.”

The program includes two sessions with just the patient’s spouse, followed by four sessions that include friends and family members.

According to Hirsch, advice is given on managing the skills of daily living.
“If, for example, the person with Alzheimer’s wanted to help with the laundry but no longer has the ability to fold and sort clothes, the caregiver might want to give him or her a basket with a few items to work with. . . We distract, never argue.”

Caregivers have constant access to phone counselors for support. From my own experience with my great grandmother, I can see how important it is to have someone to call in times of crisis.

This program, created by New York University , has been able to delay the placement of a spouse with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home by an average of 18 months!

The full article about this story can be found here.

Max Wallack is a student at Boston University Academy. His great grandmother, Gertrude, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Max is the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER. PTR is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and veterans institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

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Original content Max Wallack, the Alzheimer's Reading Room