The Fredericksburg News recently wrote an article about a guide for caregivers called, " Practical Guide To Caring For Caregivers". The topic is not so unusual but it is important to note that the original article was published in American Family Physician in 2000 by Susan Mockus Parks, M.D. and Karen D. Novielli, M.D. Sadly, nothing much has changed since the authors first noted this issue six years ago. The article was referenced by Karl Karch of Home Instead Senor Care as he spoke at a meeting of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce. In fact the needs of the dementia caregiver may be as great or greater than the actual person with dementia. As physicians themselves and part of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Parks and Novielli coined the term "hidden patients" to describe the caregivers who accompany the person with dementia, yet have great burdens to deal with along with depression and anxiety. The authors suggest that family physicians have a responsiblity to recognize significant caregiver burden and offer the dementia caregiver appropriate interventions or coping skills. This should make sense to physicians when you consider that these stressors increase the risk of the person with dementia needed advanced services such as long term care placement or home health care. The article offers the Zarit Burden Interview (22 questions) or the much simplier set of eight questions that a physician can use with the caregiver to quickly determine what services the caregiver may require. A sample question is "Have you been feeling more anxious and irritable lately?". The Practical Guide To Caring For Caregivers also includes a table with significant resources, from the Alzheimer's Association to the Well Spouse Foundation. This article is more important than ever as the numbers of dementia caregivers and dementia patients keeps escalating. Make sure your physician is informed. Go to www.aafp.org and type in "Practical Guide to Caring for Cargivers". Print out the article and bring it along to your next visit.
Diagnosis to accept, and denial in the initial stage is common. Families often enter this strange new world totally unprepared. Lack of education about the disease confounds the situation and inappropriate responses on the part of the caregiver, whether well-meaning or emotionally reactive, create frustration for both them and their loved one.