When a family member becomes aware that there is need for giving of care to a fellow member of the family, there are many concerns, doubts, and anxieties that arise. Initially, it is common for many family members to hope that the care needed is maybe only temporary or the family member thinks that maybe they are overreacting and the care is not really necessary. But, for a person with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, the family member soon understands that the person with progressive dementia will need care indefinitely; and that the care to be provided will become more increasingly demanding.

Caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s dementia is an act of service. The caregiver must have patience, be intuitive, provide guidance, and remain flexible. Anyone who has assisted another with personal hygiene and toileting know the definition of humility. When a caregiver is reluctant or resistive to the reality of the caregiving task, both the caregiver and the person with dementia suffer. But, when the caregiver grows in understanding of the disease process, the caregiver begins to have the capacity to demonstrate the compassionate care that is essential. And, as a result, both the caregiver and person with dementia benefit.

Caregivers benefit from education about the nature and needs of Alzheimer’s disease, and about the principles of effective caregiving in the home. Through support group instruction, educational workshops, and dementia care materials, caregivers become genuine agents of compassion and love.

Ultimately, the purpose of the caregiving experience is to place the relationship between the caregiver and person as the primary focus. The relevance of developing and enhancing the relationship is the key to caregiving success. Within the decreasing ability of the person with dementia to express appreciation of the care given, the caregiver sustains the relationship through unselfish service by the expression of loving kindness.

Such compassionate care is Love in action.

By Roger Lamontagne, LICSW, BCD

“CAREGIVER’S CORNER” insert for ASN NEWSLETTER v21n1,2007.