Boot Camp Helps Prepare Alzheimer’s Caregivers

As the Alzheimer’s epidemic rages on, younger family members find themselves responsible for senior loved ones battling 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 a boot camp to educate and equip caregivers of all ages. Boot Camp Helps Prepare Alzheimer's Caregivers

Learn more about this innovative program and how it helps improve the lives of both caregivers and those living with dementia.

Alzheimer’s Epidemic Creates Urgent Need for Caregivers

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. As the baby boomer generation ages, that number is expected to nearly triple, calling younger family members into caregiving – a role that they are often not prepared to fill. In fact, the National Alliance for Caregiving reports that nearly 25% of caregivers are under the age of 34.

In response to the call for caregivers and the demand being placed on younger family members, the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program has developed a “boot camp” designed to help caregivers prepare for the challenges of caring for someone with dementia.

Dr. Zaldy Tan, medical director of the program and associate professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA 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.”

Boot Camp Strives to Equip a New Generation of Caregivers

The camp uses professional actors who are 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. Tan says, “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 reviewed and constructive feedback is given 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 family members to take on caregiving responsibilities as a team. “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,” Tan said. “The boot camp is an easy way for everyone involved in the caregiving process to gain the knowledge they’ll need when it’s their time to help.”

The leaders of the dementia boot camp hope that their program will inspire other institutions to reach out to caregivers – giving them the tools and confidence they need to become effective caregivers while keeping their loved ones safe and comfortable.

See the boot camp in action here:

Have you ever attended a caregiver training like this? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 

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  • Hub Knittel

    When will the Boot Camp be in San Diego area?

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