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For the Caregiver - How You Can Help

Help put the Alzheimer's affairs in order

Ideally, this advanced planning should be done as early as possible in the first stage. It is at this first stage that the person is most able to participate in legal, financial, medical, and living arrangements. As the caregiver, you can help by locating resources in the community, seeking information and support groups,

and taking advantage of training opportunities.


With the Alzheimer's sufferer's assistance, apply for a Durable Power of Attorney, which will allow you to conduct the practical, legal, and business affairs of the person. A Durable Power of Attorney will be sustainable if mental incompetence sets in, whereas a Power of Attorney alone will not. A Power of Attorney is no longer valid once the person is determined to be incompetent.

Working with medical personnel

Intially, it will most likely be the family physician who manages your loved one's care. This doctor may make referrals to neurologists, psychiatrists, social workers and other professionals. All of these professions may come into the picture to complete the total Alzheimer's work-up, assuring that the patient gets an accurate diagnosis. It is so crucial that the physical and mental exams be thorough and that the diagnosis leaves little doubt. After all, a sure diagnosis will provide the answers about needed care, which may suggest a trial of one of the new medicines able to slow the disease progression if given early enough. The diagnosis might also reveal the problem to be another ailment, one that might very well be treatable or curable. If it is Alzheimer's, you need to know as soon as possible so that you can begin to gather the resources and make the decisions necessary for helping your loved one with the life changes that await.

The doctor you choose for ongoing medical care should:

      • Have the desire, sensitivity and the time to spend with the person
      • Have a clear understanding of the various kinds of dementia, and the vulnerability of patients with dementia to other diseases and medications. The doctor should be one who will stay abreast of the latest news about this disease.
      • Be easy to get to.
      • Be approachable. You must feel comfortable talking with the doctor and asking questions.
      • Be able to make the necessary referrals to other skilled medical or social personnel.

Keep in mind, you may find it necessary to talk with more than one doctor before choosing one, and it is important for you and your loved one to be comfortable with, and confident in, the person managing your loved one's care.

Working with a Social Worker


Social workers are skilled professionals who can assess the needs of the Alzheimer's sufferer and match these with services and resources that are in the community. They can also provide counseling and help the family work through plans, like out-of-town care. They work in a number of settings (i.e., hospitals, public assistance agencies, nursing homes, and public housing). Many social workers work in a public setting

where services are free or based on income. Others are private and charge fees accordingly. Social Workers can be found in a number of ways:

      • Your primary care physician may refer you.
      • If hospitalization is involved, the hospital may have a social worker to work with you.
      • Contact the local Area Agency on Aging and Disability for help with resources or referral. This office will work with anyone over 60.
      • Look under "Social Service Organizations" in the yellow pages.
      • Contact the local offices of the State Department of Mental Health.