Tags: alzheimer | caregiver | independence

Helping Alzheimer's Patients Stay Independent

Friday, 20 July 2012 12:15 PM

Can family members and professional caregivers be too helpful when it comes to aiding Alzheimer’s patients? A new study suggests the answer is: Yes.
University of Alberta researchers have found some caregivers may be unintentionally making people with Alzheimer’s more dependent by underestimating their abilities and doing too much for them – in effect robbing them of their independence and self-worth.
While such assistance may be driven by a compassionate desire to help, it may in fact do more harm than good, said lead researcher Tiana Rust,.
"When we create this excess dependency that doesn't need to be there, this is a problem," said Rust. "If we're able to maintain and promote independence to the degree permissible by the disease, that's important."
Rush’s findings are based on a study of caregivers that found many adopt a "dependency support script" – meaning they assumed control of tasks they believed patients could no longer do for themselves. But her analysis found caregivers' beliefs, rather than the person's actual abilities, drove their actions.
She also found that while caregivers said they value treating Alzheimer's patients with respect and promoting their independence, their actions did not always follow these goals or desires.
In one telling example she cited, a woman whose husband suffered from Alzheimer's attended a day program at a nursing home, where he would take on a number of tasks that his wife had assumed for him at home. Rust said the woman was surprised that he was still able to perform these tasks, because she believed they were beyond his abilities.
"People with Alzheimer's disease have varying abilities, so it's important to base [caregiver] interactions on the actual abilities of the person," she said. "Observing the person and gauging what they're capable of before jumping in and supporting the dependence of the person is definitely important."
She added that that training for caregivers – so they learn to assess a patient’s actual needs through interaction and observation, rather than what they believe the person needs – is vital. For instance, she noted, helping patients complete a task – such as preparing a meal – by breaking it into smaller, more manageable steps is preferable to doing it for them.

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Family members and caregivers be too helpful when it comes to aiding Alzheimer’s patients, a study suggests.
Friday, 20 July 2012 12:15 PM
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