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Boot Camp Offers Crash Course For Caregivers Of People With Alzheimer's, Dementia

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Alzheimer's disease is a tragedy for both the patient and for family members.

Not only are they watching their loved one deteriorate, they're often the ones caring for the person with dementia. As CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reported, there's now a boot camp for caregivers that might make that job a little easier.

For years, Cyndi Ramirez was focused on raising a young family and building her career, but all that changed when her mother was diagnosed with dementia.

Cyndi watched her father struggle to manage the round-the-clock demands of being a caregiver, and she knew she had to make time to help.

"I've given her a shower, I've helped her get ready. I've taken her to get her nails done," she said.

Younger caregivers are becoming more common as the number of Alzheimer's patients grows.

In fact, one in four caregivers is now under the age of 34 -- and more and more men are stepping into the role. The number of male caregivers is up six percent in six years.

Dr. Zaldy Tan at UCLA says it's a growing trend as more families care for dementia patients as a team.

"The caregiver could be young or old, could be any race, could be any ethnic or racial background," Dr. Tam said. "We are all potential caregivers."

Dr. Tan developed the caregiver boot camp at UCLA Health, where those involved in taking care of someone with dementia can learn everything from how to prevent falls to the best ways to calm a person who's confused or scared.

Caregivers learn through role-play with professional actors who simulate scenarios as patients with advanced dementia.

"This is unfamiliar territory that they need to be prepared for," Dr. Tan said. "We have trained actors specifically to act a certain way depending on the interventions that they are subjected to."

It's an exercise that made Cyndi and her dad more confident in their ability to care for their mother and wife.

"I can handle this, and I'm sure no matter what level you're at, you feel that way out of the boot camp," Cyndi's dad, Bucky Schmidt, said.

In New York, CaringKind -- which used to be called the Alzheimer's Association -- is the leading expert on Alzheimer's and dementia care giving.

They offer a family caregiver workshop to help caregivers develop skills and knowledge that improves the care giving experience for both the caregiver and the person with the disease.

For more information on CaringKind, CLICK HERE.

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