OGDEN -- Caring for someone suffering with Alzheimer's disease sometimes can be overwhelming and make the caregiver susceptible to that disease. In the United States, approximately 8.9 million family caregivers provide assistance to an Alzheimer's patient.
"Counseling the Alzheimer's Caregiver" is a new study being sponsored by the National Administration on Aging. Participants will be placed in support groups and taught effective techniques on how to care for those with Alzheimer's and other dementia type illnesses.
"If we can teach the caregiver different techniques, it could possibly not only decrease their stress level but the stress level of the recipient as well," said Laura Owen-Keirstead, family service counselor and northern Utah manager for the Alzheimer's Association. "If we can decrease that stress, the recipient may be able to stay in their home longer without having to be placed elsewhere."
The study will be conducted in several different sessions so as many people as possible can participate. Some of the areas of focus will include how to approach and talk to someone with Alzheimer's.
"For instance, you should never approach a person from behind because that can startle them," Keirstead said. "You should always be facing them and talk to them directly."
In addition, Keirstead said it's important never to argue with someone suffering from Alzheimer's type illnesses because their reality is different than a person without the disease.
The study, also being called an intervention for caregivers, is being done in conjunction with Utah State University. It will be held over a two-year period in Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, Box Elder and Cache counties.
A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in May shows the burden of care giving for someone with Alzheimer's and dementia can be profound. In addition to chronic stress, caregivers are also at an increased risk of developing depression, a shift in eating habits and physical activity, interrupted sleep and cognitive decline themselves.
Another study done in Cache County followed more than 1,200 older married couples for 12 years. The Cache County Memory Study concluded that spouses of husbands or wives that developed dementia had a 600 percent greater risk for developing the illness than someone not working as a caregiver.
During the upcoming study, a respite program will be held for those being cared for.
"We don't want anyone to have to miss out so we will provide care for those who need it while the caregiver participates in the study," said Paula Ledford, community liaison for Burch Creek Home Care and Hospice. "Everything is free of charge and will be held at the same location as where the caregivers will be. In some of the locations we will offer a longer break for caregivers in case they want to go to dinner or run an errand."
For more information and to sign up, call 801-525-5057.