Transcript: Chat With Peter V. Rabins on Caring For Loved Ones With Alzheimer's or Dementia

Missed the May 16 conversation? Read the transcript

Comment from Christine: What is the best way to handle the angry fairly threatening ways that Dad acts out his frustrations at not being able to communicate or understand much of the time?

Peter Rabins: Try to remain calm and not raise your voice, be reassuring that everything is OK, don't physically restrain your dad unless there is a major safety concern and try to distract him by getting him to talk or do something else.

Comment from Guest: What would you say is a prime example of when a person should be placed in a more protected facility?

Peter Rabins: There is no single right time or single indicator that a person should be placed outside the home.

The decision should include such factors as whether the caregiver is overwhelmed, whether the caregiver is able to meet the person's medical and safety needs (for example, are they falling frequently and at risk of hurting themselves), or are their behaviors dangerous to themselves or others.

Comment from Guest: What is the appropriate industry response for the caregiver saddled with a spouse diagnosed and lacks understanding or training in self evaluation (what am I capable of doing) or management of the time, finances, estate or obligations of job (the tasks are daunting for a housewife who embraced her role without a thought about lifting a spouse or filing a power of attorney or getting a brake job).

Peter Rabins: While clinicians and facilities should inform people about the importance of addressing these problems, some family members are emotionally ready to do so.

It is sometimes helpful to wait weeks and bring up the issue again.

Offering people lists of resources might also help. Encouraging people to bring up the issue in a support group sometimes helps them recognize what needs to be done because it comes from a person in a similar circumstance rather than from a professional.

Comment from Guest: What if a loved one does not want to do any of their normal daily activities during the day?

Peter Rabins: Often a person is no longer able to do things they've done in the past. If that is the case, it is better to try to find some other activity that they are still able to do.

Apathy, a severe lack of initiative, is one of the most common symptoms of dementia.

Some people are unable to start or persist in an activity even when they still have the ability to do it because apathy deprives them of this initiative.

Comment from Shannon: What are some ways to balance working and caregiving?

Peter Rabins: This is a very important question. While it is often hard to find the right balance because of the many demands on the caregiver, it is definitely worth trying to carve out some time for yourself.

Finding friends or family who can relieve you, having the person attend a day program, and having the person with dementia participate in a support group are some ways to find time for yourself.

Keep in mind, that a physically and mentally healthy caregiver can better serve the needs of the older person than a caregiver who is frustrated, demoralized, tired, or overwhelmed.

Comment from Guest: What is the best way to greet a relative that has Alzheimer’s?

Peter Rabins: For a person with early dementia, nothing out of the ordinary needs to be done. For a person with more advanced disease, it often helps to say, "Hello, Dad, it's Peter, you look wonderful today."

Comment from Guest: What if a person has trouble remembering the correct word for something. Like sweep, they may say vacuum or some other word. My dad has Alzheimer's and my sister and I worry when we do things we have seen dad do.

Peter Rabins: It is normal to have difficulty coming up with a word or name occasionally, and the older we get the more frequent this becomes.

If you are really worried or developing symptoms such as getting lost in a familiar place, having difficulty doing these you've done easily in the past or never remembering the name or word, then you should talk with a doctor.

Most people have the normal experience that the word or name floats into their head a minute later, often after they have stopped thinking about it.

AARP: Thank you Dr. Rabins for answering these great questions today. We appreciate this invaluable information.

Peter Rabins: I really enjoyed the experience. Thank you for having me.

AARP: Dr. Rabins routinely answers questions on our website. You can find them right here.

Or for more caregiving resources, we have a Caregiving Resources Center.

You can also find the Caregiving Resource Center on our AARP iPad app too.

Thank you and have a great rest of your day.

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Video Extra

MANAGING STRESS: Long-term care expert Elinor Ginzler discusses strategies for identifying and managing stress as a caregiver.

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