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Rita Altman, R.N. Headshot

Would You Make a Good Caregiver? (PHOTOS)

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Providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or other form of dementia can be the most rewarding work you'll ever do. Yet, we know that not everyone is prepared for the many challenges that caregivers confront.

In my 30 years of working with families and training professional caregivers, I've come to realize that the best ones share several important traits. Recognizing these traits can help caregivers find ways to improve their skills and help families evaluate caregiving alternatives.

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It is rare that anyone will enter the caregiving arena with every one of these traits perfected. However, every caregiver must take it upon themselves to evaluate their own capabilities and work on areas that may need improvement.

Understanding one's strengths and weaknesses may also lead to the realization that caregiving is not the best path for them. In these situations, it is important to understand that assisted living and other professional resources exist to help. As someone who trains professional caregivers, I know these caregivers are hired because they have many of the required traits. They further benefit from the knowledge and experience of the professionals around them and from training regimens based on decades of research. No family members should feel guilty about relying on professionals to care for their loved one. In fact, many families find that when their loved ones enter assisted living, the amount of quality time spent together actually increases because the stress of caregiving is lifted.

At last count, nearly 11 million family caregivers provide support to someone with a form of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. Fortunately, with that many caregivers spread throughout the country, there are thousands of support groups that meet every day. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with caregiving responsibilities, support groups can be found through the Alzheimer's Association.