Home health aides, who provide assistance to patients with daily activities like meals and bathing, increasingly must watch out for signs of Alzheimer’s disease among their elderly clients.
To that end, the Comfort Keepers home health agency in Northern New Jersey has created a specialized Alzheimer’s training program for its caregivers.
The course was developed by Louise Munsch, who with partners Eydie Shapiro and Kristina Munsch provides in-home, nonmedical aides for the elderly in Hudson, Essex and Bergen counties. Comfort Keepers is a national company with franchise locations throughout New Jersey.
“Today, everyone knows someone who has been affected by Alzheimer’s in some way,” Munsch said. “By enhancing their skills, our in-home caregivers will be able to better serve clients afflicted with this disease as well as support the families.”
Before creating their own Alzheimer’s course for aides, Shapiro and her partners were trained by three years ago by the Alzheimer’s Association so they could facilitate a support group for Alzheimer’s families. The group meets the first Monday of each month at the Secaucus Public Library.
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“People come from all over Hudson County,” Shapiro said, to learn how to cope with the disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 5 million Americans living with the disease, and one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
“It becomes an altered world when you are dealing with Alzheimer’s,” Shapiro said. “Our aides know what to look for, and we can be of greater assistance to our clients.”
With an elderly client, conditions can change over the course of a few days.
“Our aides will tell us that Mrs. Brown isn’t eating well or has suddenly started forgetting things. We start asking questions right away,” Shapiro said.
Demand for home health care aides is growing as the nation ages and the elderly seek the assistance and companionship that can keep them out of a nursing home.
Family members provide a lot of that basic care — but as the children age, they may not be able to continue caring for their parents, Shapiro said.
“It’s not unusual for someone to call and tell me, ‘I’m taking [care] of my dad who is 97.’ Then I meet the adult daughter, and she is 72.”
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