When a diagnosis of dementia is made, the physician is pivotal in providing the knowledge and resources that are needed to care for the patient. Because family members provide the majority of care for persons with dementia, they are an essential resource for the patient and the health care system. Making sure physicians who are overseeing medical care for your loved one understand your needs as a family caregiver and the challenges you face are essential aspects of caring for the person with dementia. A physician/caregiver/patient relationship is the recommended approach for meeting the needs of both you and your loved one.
Make sure your love ones’ physician
- Understands that you are physically, emotionally, and financially vulnerable.
- Understands that to be an effective and knowledgeable caregiver, you often rely on physicians to provide information about dementia symptom management and the availability of support services.
- Physicians can provide a proactive approach to support by linking you with resources (e.g., the Alzheimer’s Association). This can improve your capabilities as a caregiver and lead to more successful and enduring caregiving.
- Make sure your loved ones’ physicians work collaboratively with their other physicians, nurses and/or social workers who are knowledgeable about symptom and behavioral management strategies.
Needs of caregivers to dementia patients
Because dementia has a deteriorating course over an extended period of time, care problems can be anticipated and planned for well in advance.
- The physician can help family members anticipate changes, plan for role transitions, and arrange for education and support that is needed to provide care.
- In the earliest stages of the disease, it is helpful for caregivers to identify a health care proxy for the person with dementia. Encourage the completion of a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care form (your physician should have copies available in their office.) The copy of completed form becomes part of patient record.
- Caregivers need to maintain their personal health and vitality to provide continuing care for the demented patient. (see Fundamental Rule of Caregiving and Recognizing Caregiver Burnout)
- Caregivers should become familiar early in the illness with adult day-care services and in-home or in-facility respite services.
- It is helpful for caregivers to visit and evaluate several long-term care facilities well ahead of the need for placement. Understand that institutionalization may be a normal progression in the process
Information for this blog cited from the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Medical Association
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