Care for the Caregivers of Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s Disease

Dec 19, 2011

NASW News’ “Social Work in the Public Eye” asked: Who takes care of caregivers when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease? Licensed clinical social worker Elizabeth Bollwinkel takes that question to heart in an article in the Los Altos Town Crier in California.

Elizabeth Bollwinkel

The story explained that about 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Bollwinkel, an education specialist with the Alzheimer’s Association in Mountain View, Calif., said the number of those afflicted with the disease is rising and the urgency for a cure and awareness is as important as ever.

“It has become my personal passion to make the world a better place for people with Alzheimer’s,” Bollwinkel was quoted as saying.

She coordinates educational seminars for caregivers in a variety of settings, including nursing and assisted-living homes as well as for nurses at in-home-care agencies and the general public.

“Bollwinkel said she empowers caregivers with the tools needed to manage a patient’s care — aids unavailable to her mother when her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s years ago — and plan for the future,” the story said.

The social worker noted that, eventually, an Alzheimer’s patient needs full-time caregiving, because the only thing predictable about the disease is it progresses in severity over time.

“It’s a disease where people lose their connection to the world and to those around them,” Bollwinkel told the newspaper. “Our job as caregivers is to keep them as connected as possible.”

She teaches caregivers to speak slowly and learn how to communicate with those afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

“You have to step into their world,” Bollwinkel said. “It’s a really important skill to learn.”

The story explained that the Alzheimer’s Association’s mission “includes educating doctors, promoting research, securing governmental policy changes that assist Alzheimer’s patients and offering care and support for those patients and their families.”

More “Social Work in the Public Eye” can be found here.