Alzheimer's blog

Experienced caregivers offer best advice and support

By Angela Lunde July 9, 2013

Thanks to each of you who offered comments on my list of what caregivers need and for sharing additional resources that you've found helpful, such as the Alzheimer's Foundation of America website and quarterly caregiver magazine "Care ADvantage."

Many of you also shared creative strategies for caregiving, insightful ways that you cope and personal sources of strength.

One example came from Bill who said that he used his experience as a U.S. Marine as a source of strength.

He was able to draw from those years of military service knowing that when you're tired you'll go a lot further when you conserve strength, rest whenever you can and take care of yourself.

Without that, said Bill, you're useless to yourself and those who depend on you. He also offered wisdom on the stages of grieving when you love and care for someone living with Alzheimer's.

I believe that many caregivers would say that the best support, advice and help they received wasn't from a doctor or other professional but rather came from fellow caregivers who, like Bill, have lived or are living the caregiving journey firsthand — the veteran caregiver.

Recently, David Shenk, award-winning, national-bestselling author of six books, including "The Forgetting," did an interview with Mike Cuthbert on AARP's "Prime Time Radio" program.

In the interview, he stated that the best resource for those dealing with Alzheimer's is experienced Alzheimer's families — the caregivers. "They have already spent years learning to navigate this harrowing terrain," said Shenk.

The AARP interview also introduced Shenk's new documentary series, called "Living with Alzheimer's." It features four exceptionally well-done short documentaries about families who persevere in the face of Alzheimer's.

"My mission ... to wander into this strange and complex landscape, and bring back rich stories of adaptation and perseverance," said Shenk. And this is exactly what he's done. Families, including persons living with the disease, are portrayed in all their vulnerability and humanity in these artistically created real-life stories.

The documentaries underscore how families are flung into a sad, confusing new world without much of a road map.

And yet, caregivers like Bill, who have navigated this murky terrain for quite some time may hold a compass.

They offer profound compassion, understanding, insight and wisdom that are deeper and richer than most outside of the "dementia world" can provide.

For families on the dementia path, veteran caregivers can pave the way for hope and healing — our society needs you and thanks you.

Jul. 09, 2013