In 2011, Dr. Ruth Westheimer came to NewBridge on the Charles for Hebrew SeniorLife’s College of Retirement Living. During her visit, she met with Hebrew SeniorLife Dementia Research, Medical and Care Team and interviewed them for the book she was then writing “Dr. Ruth’s Guide for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver: How to Care for Your Loved One without Getting Overwhelmed…and Without Doing it All Yourself.” Dr. Ruth recognized the HSL team with a special thank you in the Acknowledgements section of the book.
Two of those professionals who contributed to Dr. Ruth’s book were Tara Fleming- Caruso, psychotherapist and Marketing Manager for the Assisted Living Community at NewBridge, and Dr. Ruth Kandel, MD, Geriatrician for Hebrew SeniorLife. What follows is an interview between Tara, Dr. Kandel and Dr. Ruth regarding Dr. Ruth’s book and what Tara and Dr. Kandel believe to be some of the most pertinent information contained therein.
The interview questions and answers will comprise a series of posts on our blog over the next two weeks.
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Tara Fleming-Caruso: Many people think that keeping their loved one at home is the ideal – and consider anything else a failure. Your book describes well-researched benefits to both patients and caregivers of Alzheimer’s day programs and memory care assisted living options. Can you elaborate?
Dr. Ruth: Fighting Alzheimer's and dementia is a battle nobody can win. The question is, how badly are you going to lose? If a spouse or other family member tries to shoulder the entire responsibility, after a while they too might fail. Their life may succumb to the disease and that's just too high a price to pay. Plus, then what happens to the person in your care? So you have a duty to both your loved one and yourself to get help. And the longer you delay going for help, the worse will be the outcome. If you wait until you're overwhelmed to start looking for the best ways to get help, you'll never be able to be both a caregiver and a researcher. And as a result you may jump to the wrong conclusion
Tara Fleming-Caruso: Yes and it’s important to know that help is available in day programs for short-term assistance and assisted living for longer-term housing and care. The benefits of both include increased socialization, assistance with activities of daily living, a safe place with medical oversight, a structured environment, and nutritional needs provided for daily. I always suggest that people research and visit several day programs or assisted living communities and gather information in advance so they’ll be prepared when decisions need to be made quickly.
Dr. Ruth: I'm not saying you have to get help right away, but you do have to lay the groundwork for getting help as soon as possible. Your loved one's condition is going to deteriorate though in each case how long he or she goes from one stage to the next will vary. But since you can't know at what point in the future things will get so bad that you'll need help, you have to take action right away. Be prepared so that when you need help you'll know exactly how to get it.