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A Critical Resource for Alzheimer's Caregivers

02/05/2015 05:24 am ET | Updated Apr 01, 2015

Jean's mother, Irene, had been having memory problems and frequent confusion for quite some time and Jean took her to the doctor to discuss these issues. At the visit Jean's worst fears were confirmed. Her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Jean knows nothing about this illness and has no idea where to turn for advice. Fortunately there's now a guide that can help her with basic and practical information.

A Pocket Guide for the Alzheimer's Caregiver, available on Amazon, is an extremely helpful guide for people caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's. Written in clear, simple language, it offers valuable information and advice about a whole variety of problems typically faced by caregivers.

The Foreword was written by Robert C. Griggs, MD, FAAN, former President of the American Academy of Neurology. He states, "The book is the place for the frightened to turn to for initial information and perspective on Alzheimer's disease - and then to return to for practical advice as problems arise."

In the Introduction the authors, Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN, and Ellen Woodward Potts, MBA, say that Alzheimer's caregivers "have one of the most difficult jobs imaginable, and because of their love, dedication, and courage, give their best day after day."

The book is divided into two sections - the first with discussions of common issues and problems, and the second with an alphabetical quick reference of problems and responses. There are many examples from the authors' experiences.

Part I begins with basic information about Alzheimer's disease. This includes an explanation of the illness and its stages. Eighteen issues about people with Alzheimer's are also covered. These include False Accusations, Inappropriate Public Behavior, Dressing, Bathroom Issues, Driving Issues, Violence and many more.

Some topics of special concern to caregivers are Denial, Caregiver Guilt, and Social Isolation. Regarding the latter they say, "Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease can be one of the most socially isolating occupations the planet."

An important issue covered in the book is Lying to Those with Alzheimer's Disease, where the authors state, "There are situations . . . where you should choose to lie for the good of your loved one. Those with Alzheimer's disease cannot come into your world, so you must enter theirs." They also say "Be truthful and upset your loved one with Alzheimer's disease or be kind and lie." They conclude, "In most cases, being right doesn't matter anymore."

In Part II, the Quick Guide, there are summaries of the advice about each item presented in Part I. There is also an Appendix, which contains a list of useful resources for caregivers. Finally there is an eloquent poem by Dr. Potts, "Life in the Present."

The cover is graced with a water color painting by Dr. Potts' father, Lester Potts, who became an artist of acclaim when he had Alzheimer's. Lester had never painted at all before he developed the disease.

Dr. Potts is a noted neurologist, author, educator, and champion of those with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers. Ellen Woodward Potts, Dr. Potts' wife, has more than 20 years' experience in healthcare management. They had eight relatives with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia for whom members of their immediate families provided care.

If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease you will find this book quite helpful as you travel along your caregiving journey. The solid information and advice it contains will illuminate your task and guide you in your caregiving duties.

Marie Marley is the award-winning author of the uplifting book, Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer's and Joy. Her website (ComeBackEarlyToday.com) contains a wealth of information and advice for Alzheimer's caregivers.