Expert Health Articles

Alzheimer's Disease Skills2Care™

Lindsey Buddelmeyer OTDLindsey Buddelmeyer OTD

Bridge Pallative Care

Chances are, you know someone who has been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. This may be a friend, a co-worker, a person that you know from church, a next door neighbor, or it may be you. This disease is not as it seems, people are not as they seem. Someone may look fine on the outside, but is completely broken and has morphed into someone different on the inside. It takes more than five minutes to see that Alzheimer’s disease has robbed the person of his or her soul. To the caregiver, a new person resides inside the home. To the patient, there is a familiar face that walks among unfamiliar walls. A lifetime of memories fades with each passing day. We need to come together as a community and support one another to help combat this disease. 

Currently, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and the numbers continue to rise each and every day (Alzheimer’s Association, 2017). Alzheimer’s disease directly impacts patients and caregivers. By and large; caregivers have no formalized education or training to provide direct care to their loved ones. Research studies have linked negative health consequences for caregivers from the physical and emotional stressors associated with caregiving.

There is oftentimes a role reversal that occurs between husbands and wives. These patients and families are typically attended to by a primary care physician and or neurologist. They are seen for routine follow-up appointments which oftentimes include a review of medications, and a cognitive assessment. Many times caregivers know the results of this assessment before the physician even formally tests them. How and what are we giving them as they walk out the door and face the daily hardships of caring for someone with AD? How can we help patients and caregivers manage the physical and behavioral challenges that accompany it? A model of care that can help to better serve this population is palliative care.

Palliative care is a branch of medicine that is comprised of health care providers that address the needs of chronic disease communities such as AD or dementia. The goal being to help to prevent and relieve suffering and to support the best quality of life for patients and their families. Skills2Care™ is a caregiver education and training program that is delivered by an occupational therapist that helps families manage daily care challenges. These challenges may include but are not limited to resistance to bathing, agitation, difficulty with communication, medication safety and management, functional transfers throughout the home, and recommendations for adaptive equipment and environmental modifications in the home.

This program is currently being embedded under a palliative care model of practice so that patients diagnosed with AD and their caregivers can receive the help and support that they need along the way. Patients with AD typically live 6-12 years beyond the time that they begin to demonstrate challenges with their memory.  This model of care combined with Skills2Care™ can be very impactful for patients and families as they try to manage the chronic and progressive nature of this disease. Our goal is to keep people in their homes and out of the hospital. We are focused on improving the quality of life for the patient as well as the caregiver.