September 3, 2015

Caregiver Resources: Eldercare Professionals Who Can Help

By Pamela Spahr, Contributing Writer | The Caregiver Eldercare Specialists

No matter what kind of care you are giving, there are many challenges to face. It’s important to know that there are many people poised to help as you embark on your new role as a caregiver.

I am my husband’s caregiver. Bob had several major stokes and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about three years ago. When he came home, I had no idea how to take care of him. I got support from a variety of specialists.

Physical therapists support their patients’ movement and balance

In general, physical therapists determine what type of physical exercise and therapy is required to make the most of the patient’s remaining capabilities. They don’t work directly with doctors, although physicians may send them notes on the case.

Bob’s physical therapist helped him regain his balance, his ability to walk and his ability to climb up and down stairs. She also created a group of exercises to rebuild his arm muscles.

Speech therapists help patients express themselves

A speech therapist works with patients who have difficulty speaking, understanding, learning, thinking or swallowing. These problems can be a result of illnesses, such as a stroke or brain injury, or due to aging, such as dementia or swallowing difficulties.

Bob’s speech therapist helped him regain his ability to read, count, and express himself, even though he could not and still cannot carry on a conversation.

He did not have expressive aphasia. In this side effect, the thinking part of the brain knows what it wants to say, but the expressive part cannot articulate it. There is a huge disconnect between those two parts of the brain. My father had expressive aphasia when he had his strokes.

Occupational therapists: Assisting patients with life skills

Occupational therapy helps people of all ages learn or regain the ability to perform tasks that make up daily life. These include:

  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Eating
  • Operating a computer
  • Playing sports
  • Navigating a school, workplace or living facility

Occupational therapists help patients gain ability to participate in activities despite impairments or limitations in physical or mental functioning. The person who needs occupational therapy could be your father or mother facing changes because of aging. It could be you or your spouse coping with illness or the results of an accident. Occupational therapists work with anyone who, for whatever reason, can’t do the things in life they want or need to do.

Geriatric doctors and neurologists focus on aging issues

Physicians who specialize in geriatric medicine focus on health issues and illnesses in patients over the age of 60. They are knowledgeable about how age-related medical conditions impact each other as well as possible interactions between common medications for seniors.

Geriatric neurologists are doctors who specialize in nervous system disorders, brain diseases, and damage to the spinal cord. They treat patients who have difficulties with balance, movement, muscle strength and reflexes. Geriatric neurologists also provide memory care for patients with brain injuries. The Stanford Medical Clinic memory care group re-diagnosed Bob with middle stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Case managers support coordinated care for patients and loved ones

Case managers are a tremendous resource for caregivers whose patients or loved ones need the services of many specialists. Case management involves assessing, planning and coordinating patient health care. Professionals who specialize in case management advocate for patients and their families to meet their comprehensive needs.

Trust me, when you are in a hospital and no doctor is talking to you and no one is telling you what is really happening, a case manager is exactly what you need.

Pamela Spahr, the founder of Inspired Caregivers and the author of the eBook, “Caregivers Survival Toolkit,” is an expert in behavioral and emotional techniques designed specifically for caregivers to those with cognitive impairment. She coaches caregivers and teaches her techniques to family and professional caregivers around the United States.

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