Are there any classes I can take to become a better family caregiver?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 21, 2016
Hsm asked...

I live with my parents. My father (81) has early Alzheimer's and is disabled from a stroke. My mother (80) is partially disabled from an auto accident, has COPD and is a breast cancer survivor. Of the two, my mom is still pretty active and the primary care giver to my father. I work but help her out after work and on the weekends. The time will come when I will be the primary care giver for one, if not both, of them. My question is: what and where are the best classes that I can take to be more informed so I can not only help my mom more now but prepare myself for the day when I am the primary caregiver for both of them?

Expert Answers

Merrily Orsini, MSSW, was a pioneer in the business of providing geriatric care managed in-home care. She currently serves on the board of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice and is Chair of the Private Duty Homecare Association. She holds a master's degree in social work and is a nationally known writer and speaker on aging, elder issues, and in-home care.

Because you are in a situation with such specific disease and disability needs, classes for family caregivers means for you tackling these from a variety of sources. I'll get to those in a minute, but it seems to me that you really ought to get a geriatric assessment as well, so someone in your community who knows the issues of aging and chronic diseases and who knows care options and costs can help you locally. That would be a geriatric care manager. does have some listed, (search for geriatric care manager in the top search bar) and if you cannot find one in your area, then try the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers There will be a charge for this service, but it will save you such incredible time and energy, plus, there is just no way that someone can learn what years of experience in helping people with long term care problems teaches. also has many resources on Alzheimer's as well.

Knowledge you will need to provide care: Early Alzheimer's: disease progression as well as how to communicate and how to deal with difficult behaviors.

Disabled from a stroke; disease, and special care needs based on specific areas affected

Partially disabled from an auto accident, has COPD and is a breast cancer survivor- no details on disability, but for COPD there are specifics, especially how to avoid ER runs

In addition to specific disease management and knowledge, you will need to know how to lift and transfer without harming your body, how to change beds with people in them, and how to give baths in bed, and what to look for in skin breakdown and how to prevent that. Alzheimer's, stroke and COPD all have associations and Web sites with many resources. The local Red Cross probably has caregiving classes that would help you with the specific personal care needs. Usually community or technical colleges also have courses for home health aides. Good luck. And do not forget to use respite services so your health is not compromised when providing care.