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Learn to Be a Caregiver, Not a Curegiver

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November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown has tips on how to provide care for a family member, friend or patient suffering from the disease.

More than 5.2 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States and approximately 10 million baby boomers are expected to develop the disease within their lifetime, according to the National Alzheimer’s Association.

“Alzheimer’s disease is one of the largest forms of dementia and destroys brain cells, causes memory loss and impedes on daily behavior. St. Mary’s Hospital has a PET scanner that can help detect Alzheimer’s disease,” said Terri Verbic-Boggs, registered nurse and health educator for St. Mary’s Hospital.

Caregivers for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients are under tremendous stress.  Here are tips from Verbic-Boggs on easing the stress for caregivers.

(1) Remember KISS — Keep It Short and Sweet.  Patients understand short, simple commands.
(2) Make the patient’s environment quiet — he or she cannot tune out distractions. 
(3) Limit a patient’s choices. For example, do not ask the patient what he or she would like to wear and show them a closet full of clothes.  Instead, pull out two outfits to choose from.
(4) Understand what is medically going on with the patient.
(5) Don’t be afraid of physical touch — it is calming and therapeutic.
(6) Understand the different stages of the disease.
(7) Give patients something to do.  They can easily get bored and enjoy working on a task, even something as simple as folding a basket of clothes.
(8) Offer visual cues, such as a picture of a toilet on a bathroom door or a picture of the person’s past on his or her door.
(9) Provide a safe haven for the patient to walk around so he or she does not end up wandering into unsafe environments.
(10) Recognize that you are a caregiver, not a curegiver.

Verbic-Boggs said it is important for caregivers to have time away from the patient and join a support group.  The Chesapeake-Potomac Home Health Agency in Hughesville, which is a partner of St. Mary’s Hospital, offers a free Alzheimer’s Care Givers Support Group.

Upcoming group meetings are Nov. 20 and Dec. 18 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.  For more information, contact the agency at (301)274-9000.

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