Primary Care Doctor and Patient Co-Author The Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver’s Handbook: What to Remember When They Forget


Alzheimers-Disease-Caregiver-HandbookBy Dr. Sally Willard Burbank

As a primary care internist with thirty years of experience, I noticed that, hands down, THE most stressed out and worn-out patients in my practice were those who were caregiving parents or spouses with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. They came in sleep-deprived and overwhelmed, always second-guessing themselves for how they were handling things. Some had come to near blows with siblings on thorny decisions. They are usually racked with guilt because they lose their patience with their loved one when they don’t remember what they are told or repeat the same question or story over and over the again.

In hopes of helping my patients, I began an exhaustive review of every book and article I could find about how to successfully take care of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease in their home without completely losing your own life in the process. I interviewed dozens of successful caregivers, nursing home nurses, and even interviewed the caregivers at Abe’s Garden, one of the nation’s top Alzheimer’s facilities. I intended on writing a practical book for my patients addressing every thorny and difficult issue I could find.

About this time, I noticed that a patient of mine, Sue Pace Bell, seemed to handle caretaking her husband with impressive patience, common sense, and peace. She somehow managed to swim the exhaustive waters of Alzheimer’s without sacrificing her own peace and joy. I learned that not only had Sue taken care of her husband until his death (a ten-year journey), but she had also taken care of her mother in the home until she died in her nineties.

I approached Sue about co-writing a book, and she heartily agreed. “If I could provide a resource for other caregivers to learn all the lessons I learned the hard way, it would make everything I’ve been through worth it!” she enthused.

After two years of collaboration, The Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver’s Handbook: What to Remember When They Forget was born.

Our handbook provides a layman’s overview of what Alzheimer’s is, causes, genetics, prevention, treatment, and current research. The bulk of the book, however, provides practical techniques and advice to tackle the most difficult challenges this disease can pose such as: the patient won’t give up the car keys, or balks at bathing or turning over the finances, or refuses to leave their home when it is no longer safe to live home alone. We tackle how to keep the patient entertained, how to keep them safe, how to share the load of caregiving with siblings, how to ask for help, and how to take the patient out in public without embarrassment. Sue offers practical tips she’s learned on minimizing soiled sheets and diaper changes when out in public with a spouse of the opposite sex.

Feedback on the book has been fantastic and nursing homes have even started using our book as a training manual for their new hires.

Biography: Sally-Willard-Burbank

Dr. Sally Burbank completed her medical degree at the University of Vermont in 1986 and has practiced internal medicine in Nashville, TN for over 30 years. She is the married mother of two grown children, an engineer in Denver and a 4th year Veterinary college student. Sue Pace Bell lives in Waverly, Tennessee, and runs a gift store in Waverly called the Carrolton House with her daughter.

Read more at my website: Find the book on Amazon at:

Twitter = @SallyBurbank

Facebook= @sallywillardburbank


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