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Cognitive Impairment...A Starting Point for Caregivers

It is an amazingly difficult job to care for a loved one suffering from cognitive impairment. I admire those who have taken on this awesome and often grueling responsibility, but how does one do this, and do it well for the long haul?


There are no simple answers, but the following may provide a place to start for these loving warriors. Start by understanding the disease process. This includes securing a definitive diagnosis for your loved one. Why? Each dementing condition can provide unique challenges. It is also helpful, so that the best approaches are applied, as you interact with your loved one. In other words, the type of disease process can help direct your actions, words, and other communication; touch, body language, etc.


How do you approach learning about the disease afflicting your loved one? More importantly, how do you best learn what your loved one is going experiencing. This is where many people seem to hit a brick wall. People, understandably, are frightened of the disease. Family members especially fear the disease for several reasons, most often it is fear of what they themselves may experience down the line, or fear of really looking at what their loved one is facing. These are both valid. But they can’t hold you back since it is critical to be able to see the disease from the eyes of their loved one.


Learning about the disease is easy given our internet centric world. A search on any search engine will give you a variety of options to choose from. I’m especially fond of the work of Teepa Snow and her team Another very terrific resource with whom I am affiliated is the Validation Training Institute There are a host of other sites to visit such as The Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, and Lewy Body Dementia Association.


The list goes on and on. Choose the ones that speaks most to you and immerse yourself. There are online courses and certifications, take as many as you can, learn all you can. The key is to build up your stamina, through resources and training, these will help you weather the inevitable storm(s) that caring for someone with a dementing condition will bring. In my experience, the number one reason for caregiver burnout, both those caring for a loved one and those who do it for a living, is a lack of training and support. As a loved one, you can choose to arm yourself with the very best armor.


The next step is to get connected. There are a host of organizations in most every community that can help. There is ACAP (Adult Children of Aging Parents). These are in various locations around the country and offer programs and speakers on a frequent basis.


The Alzheimer’s Association has a certification process for those that offer support groups. These groups can be found in most regions of the country and can be accessed through the Alzheimer’s Association website


Now is the time. Take your love, passion and yes, your fear, and apply a healthy dose of blood sweat and tears to make this work for your loved one. As when flying, you must first put your oxygen mask on first before helping someone else. Learn, connect and enter their world! Within a short time, your fear will abate leaving you with the power to make a difference.


Doug Fouché has been caring for people with dementing conditions since 2005. He has been associated with the Validation Training Institute since 2006 and is now a Certified Validation Teacher. Doug is a senior services consultant and is working toward developing and building his own assisted living community focused on the care of those with a cognitive impairment. You are welcome to contact Doug with any questions related to senior services or ideas to help care givers and other stakeholders on twitter @DEFouche1. This material is the property of the author and may be used with written permission of the author.