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There are boot camps for military recruits, boot camps to lose weight and even boot camps for brides, but a boot camp for Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers? Yes, there is one for that too and it is providing people with much-needed information and support. The science of treating patients is always evolving as are the techniques and strategies for dementia caregiving.
The boot camp1 for caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia was developed by Dr. Zaldy Tan who recognized the physical, emotional and mental toll of caregiving. When caregivers are compromised it can adversely impact the health and well-being of the people in their care. Dr. Tan realized that improving care for caregivers also improves care for those with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Given that roughly 5.5 million Americans suffer from dementia2, and one in four adults serves as a caregiver, paying attention to their well-being is absolutely necessary.
We recently conducted a national study with 670 family caregivers to gather information on the emotional costs of dementia caregiving. We discovered that dementia caregivers were seven times more likely to experience physical, emotional and mental exhaustion from caregiving than other types of caregivers. Also, they were three times more likely to feel extreme stress from their caregiving responsibilities. Caregivers need help and support to carry out their duties.
What does a dementia boot camp help with?
It provides education, support and knowledge. Caregivers feel more empowered and more in control when they have the facts about the disease their loved ones are suffering from. A boot camp can help give caregivers the facts about the progression of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. It provides honest answers to questions about what will happen as their loved ones progress through the stages of the disease. It also gives them a clear window into the behaviors that accompany Alzheimer’s.
Tan educates caregivers attending the boot camp on how to avoid triggers that can result in agitation, anger, and aggressive outbursts. This information serves as a decoding book to the puzzling behaviors that caregivers observe in their loved ones.
The boot camp is also designed to make daily caregiving easier. Presenters show caregivers games that they can play at home with their loved ones. Music has power in dementia care; music based games can help even non-verbal Alzheimer’s patients to sing along, and soothes those who become agitated or angry.
Helping caregivers learn how to prevent their loved ones from dementia related falls is another service that is provided in boot camp. Education is provided on how to ensure the home has adequate lighting and is “fall-proof” by installing handrails in the bathtub and removing throw rugs.
As caregivers care for a loved one with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, they live on an emotional roller coaster. Watching a loved one disappear into the disease is lonely and isolating. Boot camp provides a safe and understanding environment in which caregivers can share these emotions and receive support.
Not many people are aware of the emotional toll of dementia caregiving. Although the term boot camp can have connotations of tough, unyielding training, this boot camp breaks the mold. It delivers compassionate support and information that is essential to help caregivers carry on.