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A Geriatric Specialist’s Tips for Dementia Care

Ezra Home Care recently interviewed Carol Westheimer, a specialist in the field of geriatrics, about dementia and Alzheimer’s care.  With 35 years of experience, Carol has worked in a variety of settings, including outpatient clinics, inpatient med-psych units, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and private practices.

We asked Carol what recommendations she can make for people diagnosed with dementia.

1. Develop a plan


A diagnosis of dementia leaves patients and their families with many questions:  How fast will the disease progress?  How will the diagnosis affect everyday life? What kind of planning should I do?   What can be done to slow the progression of the disease?

To avoid some the frustration, Carol recommends that patients meet with a geriatric specialist in order to develop a plan.  After a thorough assessment, the specialist can help to identify the patient’s short-term and long-term treatment wishes, and establish the first steps.

Each person and family is unique, and there is no cookie-cutter solution.  A person with slightly impaired memory will have different wishes than a person who is experiencing significant memory loss.  An established plan will help set REALISTIC expectations for each stage of the disease, and will help support the entire family

2. Participate in dementia support groups

dementia support groups MA

Carol Westheimer recommends local dementia support groups to all of her clients and their families--“These meetings can help you deal with stress and frustration, while adjusting to a new lifestyle and the various challenges of the disease.” There are groups specifically for people just diagnosed and their care partners.

Dementia/Alzheimer’s support groups are confidential meetings for patients and/or their caregivers.  These groups meet once or twice a month, are free of charge, and are open to anyone seeking information or support from other families.  The National Alzheimer’s Association trains support group leaders so that they can provide the best information about Alzheimer's disease and related dementia, as well as emotional support.  Click here for the full list of Support Groups in Massachusetts and New Hampshire 

Carol Westheimer is herself a 25-year Alzheimer’s support group leader, working for the National Alzheimer’s Association’s Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter - Watertown, MA

3.  Change your lifestyle

dementia lifestyle

Carol recommends all her dementia clients consider revising their life-long habits in order to support a healthy lifestyle.  It’s easier said than done, but good health and optimism may help to slow down the rate of decline.  In her recommendations, Carol highlights three important habits dementia patients may like to develop.

  • Healthy diet

Patients’ diets should be well-balanced, limiting high saturated fat and cholesterol, as well as sugar and salt.  A heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, rich in fish, nuts, whole grains, and olive oil is often the best choice.  In case of appetite loss, the doctor may suggest supplements between meals.

  • Social activity

Memory impaired people often don’t have the urge to be socially active. Caregivers and family members should encourage people to meet with friends, participate in support groups, and ultimately get out of the house more often. Many studies show Social activity can support a person’s memory and cognition stability

  • Physical and mental exercise

Regular physical and mental exercise may also slow the the progression.  People should look for small ways to add activities into their day, including taking walks, climbing stairs, reading the newspaper or a good book, or taking up a new hobby.  Exercise doesn’t need to be exhausting, but should happen regularly.

"Life does not stop with a dementia diagnosis,” Carol states.  “People just diagnosed with dementia can continue to lead a fulfilling and rewarding life if the appropriate help and support is available."


  Carol Westheimer M.Ed, LMHC                                                             crwcaremanagement.com                                                            cwestheimer@gmail.com 

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