Last Updated: February 15, 2019
As the Alzheimer’s epidemic increases, younger family members may find themselves responsible for senior loved ones with the disease. In an effort to better prepare younger generations for the challenges of caregiving, the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program has developed caregiver education, training and webinars to equip Alzheimer’s caregivers of all ages.
Learn more about UCLA’s innovative caregiver education program and how it helps improve the lives of both caregivers and those living with dementia.
The Urgent Need for Alzheimer’s Caregivers
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than five million Americans living with the disease, with the number expected to triple in the next decade. In response to the call for additional Alzheimer’s caregivers and the demand being placed on younger family members, the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program has developed resources and training designed to help caregivers prepare for the challenges of caring for someone with the disease.
Dr. Zaldy Tan, associate professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and medical director of the program, says,
“Caregiving has become more diverse and will continue to be. In terms of gender, we have more male caregivers than ever before. Younger family members are also taking on the role as parents age and oftentimes caregiving is shared across different generations. When a loved one is diagnosed, family members are suddenly thrust into this caregiving role, and unfortunately, a lot of them are ill-prepared.”
UCLA Strives to Equip a New Generation of Alzheimer’s Caregivers
In addition to providing Alzheimer’s caregivers with education, resources and training, UCLA recently held a “Caregiver Boot Camp” which hired professional actors specifically trained to act as though they are in the advanced stages of dementia.
After a full day of learning caregiving techniques, developing communication tools and practicing safety techniques, caregivers are able to put what they have learned into action with the actors through role-playing.
Dr. Tan says of the caregiver education and training, “The best way to allow all of the information to sink in is to practice what you’ve learned in a realistic situation. The actors are instructed to respond to intervention techniques just as an Alzheimer’s patient would.” Each scenario is then reviewed to help caregivers understand the best course of action in each scenario.
One of the main focuses of the training is on self-care, encouraging Alzheimer’s caregivers to take on responsibilities as a team with family and friends. “Taking care of the caregiver is just as important as taking care of the patient, so having someone that can provide a respite is extremely helpful,” Dr. Tan states.
UCLA hopes that their caregiver program will inspire other institutions to reach out to Alzheimer’s caregivers – giving them the confidence and tools they need to become effective caregivers while keeping their loved ones comfortable and safe.
Have you attended Alzheimer’s caregiver training before? What was your experience like? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.