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Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease can have high physical, emotional, and financial costs. The demands of day-to-day care, changes in family roles, and decisions about placement in a care facility can be difficult. There are several evidence-based approaches and programs that can help, and researchers are continuing to look for new and better ways to support caregivers.
Becoming well-informed about the disease is one important strategy. Programs that teach families about the various stages of Alzheimer’s and about ways to deal with difficult behaviors and other caregiving challenges can help.
Good coping skills, a strong support network, and respite care are other ways to help caregivers handle the stress of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. For example, staying physically active provides physical and emotional benefits.
Some caregivers have found that joining a support group is a critical lifeline. These support groups allow caregivers to find respite, express concerns, share experiences, get tips, and receive emotional comfort. Many organizations sponsor in-person and online support groups, including groups for people with early-stage Alzheimer’s and their families.
A promising approach to reducing agitation in people with Alzheimer’s disease, and decreasing caregiver burden, is being tested in the Tailored Activity Program (TAP). TAP is a nonpharmacologic, home-based intervention that trains caregivers to design and use activities that draw on a person with dementia’s interests and abilities. A pilot study and further evaluation showed promising results. Read about two ongoing clinical trials, an NIA-supported trial in Baltimore, MD, and another involving veterans in Gainesville, FL.