It's estimated Alzheimer's affects 5.1 million Americans, most of what's known about the disease is new. The brain disease causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.
People who have to take care of Alzheimer's patients have a difficult time and they have to learn a lot of information in a short time. Now there's a quick guide that can help.
"Help! What Do I Do Now? Caring for Your Loved One with Alzheimer's" by Nancy Nicholson is an 86-page, easy-to-read guide for caregivers.
Nicholson helped care for her father who had Alzheimer's and she's currently a social services consultant to nursing homes. As a licensed social worker she now trains nursing home staff members. Even with the disease hitting so close to home and a lifetime of experience Nicholson is humble.
"I don't claim to know anything about the causes of Alzheimer's or the current research on treatment," she said. "But I do know how to care for patients to preserve as much dignity as possible and to make a difficult situation a little easier--for both the patient and the caregiver."
When Nicholson and her family had to care of their father, most of what they did came from trial and error and from reaching out to other people.
"Caring for my father impacted me so profoundly that I decided to make a career of working with the elderly, especially those suffering with Alzheimer's or other types of dementia," Nicholson said. "I have worked in several capacities and went on to earn a degree in social work."
Nicholson's personal experience with caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's means she's able to communicate the most useful information to others in need. And she saw firsthand how so many struggled to understand the disease.
"I began to understand how little most people know, even people who work with Alzheimer's patients. Interviewing caregivers who could no longer cope and who brought their loved one to the nursing home showed me the struggles and frustration they went through," said Nicholson. "They had the best intentions and the desire to provide excellent care for their loved one, but they didn't have the knowledge of how to do that."
Nicholson recalls a couple who visited their home, they didn't know how to communicate with her father, so they simply ignored him the entire time. The couple wasn't invited back. Nicholson said the journey is difficult, but there are positive and uplifting moments as well.
"My goal is to help other people continue to maintain a loving relationship with the person as the disease progresses," Nicholson said. "I want them to come away with some techniques and resources to help them to deal with the difficult situation. Even more than that, I want them to realize their are a lot of people who are facing the same challenges they are--they aren't alone."
Truth be told this guide started out as a college class assignment which resulted in an A. It's now a labor of love and a gift to others who have to live with Alzheimer's patients.
Nicholson's little book is 86 pages long and it's perfect for caregivers who don't have a lot of time to sit and read much.
For more information about Alzheimer's go to www.alz.org or call 1-800-272-3900.