Social Issues of the Alzheimer’s Patient and Family

  • Lisa P. Gwyther
    Address requests for reprints to Lisa P. Gwyther, MSW, Box 3600 Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710
    Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and the Bryan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA
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      Families caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) soon discover that it is unlike any other illness. Coping with a degenerative brain disease is much different than dealing with a physical disability. AD is more disruptive to, and has greater impact on, the family than other chronic diseases. AD caregiving carries with it a high financial, social, and emotional price. Families must work toward effectively coping with the disease, decreasing the harmful effects on the family, and keeping family conflicts to a minimum. Support groups can provide families with much-needed information on the disease, emotional and practical support, and an expressive or advocacy outlet. Formal services can help relieve some of the burden of caring for an AD patient. Family members must remember that there is no “right” way to care for a person with AD, and each family must determine, with the help of the appropriate professionals and services, how to best meet its own needs. Given the burdens of care, however, even small interventions may translate into improvements in the quality of life or confidence of the caregiver.
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