From Family Care to
Preparing for Caregiving
When family members learn that Alzheimer's disease accounts for changes they have observed in a loved one's memory and other abilities, they must absorb this news and consider its meaning. What impact will it have on the present and the future? Who will be the caregiver? They will have questions about caregiving. What does Alzheimer's caregiving involve? How is it different from the things family members ordinarily do for each other when someone is ill? If they cannot provide the care, what will they do? These are the kind of choices that families face when they prepare for the transition from family caregiving to Alzheimer's caregiving.
Our orientation to caregiving is grounded in our experiences with traditional family care. Caregiving was a part of the parenting role, or a response to another family member who was ill. Children grow up. Many illnesses are temporary, and the family member usually functions independently again. Unlike the Alzheimer's situation, there was probably no reason for caregivers to do anything differently to take care of themselves. These intervals of caregiving are a normal part of family life. Alzheimer's care draws from these caregiving experiences, but the differences between the two situations are significant.
In this chapter we examine these differences and identify ways that caregivers might handle problems. Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative condition. Alzheimer's care has many of the problems commonly observed by caregivers involved with chronic health problems.