Imagine one fine day when you started from your home but couldn’t remember where to go. Friends and family members come to your home but you can’t recognize any of them. And on top of all, you don’t even remember your own name. That’s Alzheimer’s!
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Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be a stressful and intensely emotional journey. And most of the times even a lonely one.
As the disease progresses your loved one’s cognitive, physical, and functional abilities will diminish over a period of years. Your loved one will be present, but unable to communicate their thoughts or remember faces and names. The disease also eventually takes away the patient’s independence and in turn makes the caregiver the feet, hands, and mind of the sufferer.
But, since each individual with Alzheimer’s disease progress differently, so too can the caregiving experience vary from person to person.
However, there are strategies that can help make the caregiving journey as rewarding as it is challenging. Learning all you can about what is happening and what to expect on the Alzheimer’s journey will not only help your loved one but is also the first step towards protecting your own mental and physical health.
Here are a few tips to follow when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.
Make a Routine
For many people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, it is frustrating when tasks that they used to do every day, like going to the store or taking care of things around the house, become difficult and challenging.
One way to help them feel like they’re maintaining control over these aspects of their lives is by establishing a routine. A routine can help them feel secure and comfortable.
Set a routine where the individual suffering from Alzheimer’s wakes up at a certain time every day, has easy and small tasks around the house, has specified days where they are taken to the grocery store and have a fixed bedtime.
Schedule important tasks or bathing times at point in the day where the person with Alzheimer’s disease is most alert and not too tired or strained. This allows for them to be engaged in the task. Also, as you’re helping your loved one with their schedule, remember not to rush things. Because now, tasks might take a little longer than they used to. Plan for breaks or time to rest.
Keep them busy
Daily activities need to center around the interests of the person with Alzheimer’s because keeping the person occupied can decrease the likelihood he or she will become agitated.
When planning activities and tasks for the day, try to keep them simple and break them down into steps the patient can easily achieve. When the person completes a step, offer him or her an ample amount of praise. This will decrease the frequency of angry outbursts due to frustration.
When you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, communication can be challenging and frustrating at times, for both the sufferer and the caregiver. But, it is important that you communicate with sensitivity and clarity.
Since there are big changes in life after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease-like loss of independence, it can make it hard to communicate/discuss about these changes. Talking about decisions like no longer driving, or even moving into a senior home that offers Alzheimer’s disease might be hard for your loved one to hear.
Before you approach these sensitive topics, make sure to have a good communication strategy in mind like speaking slowly and be willing to repeat or explain some points. Also remember that while your loved one might be having a rough few hours while you’re communicating with them, they may have greater clarity later. So, make sure to reiterate the main points of important conversations again.
Maintain a healthy diet
It can be difficult for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease to maintain a healthy diet on their own. Which is why helping them maintain a healthy diet is a really important part of the care process. Pay attention to their diets, as they may forget to eat or they could be taking medication that suppresses their appetite. Getting the required caloric intake will ensure that they are healthy.
One way you can help your loved one maintain a healthy diet – it may be a challenge to your own schedule – is to try to eat as many meals with them as possible. Social eating with friends or family ensures someone is watching to make sure your loved one is eating a full meal.
Also, make sure your family and those that surround your loved one are well informed and patient about their eating habits because it can be a challenge for an Alzheimer’s patient to stay neat and proper while eating.
Be compassionate and understanding
Remember to be patient and understanding of your loved one’s needs because ultimately you just want your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease to know that they’re cared for and valued.
As time goes on they will become more and more dependant on the caregiver. And it can be a struggle for the caregiver to maintain a balance between the care they provide for the loved one and their own life and responsibilities. As a caregiver, do your best to stay flexible, keeping time available for last-minute doctor’s appointments.
Having patience with your loved one’s changed lifestyle and choices as their Alzheimer’s disease progresses is very important. They may start becoming picky about what they eat and what they wear. Maybe they want to tell you the same story they told you about yesterday. Or, if they only want to wear a certain pair of shoes every day, then buy a few pairs to make life a little easier for them.
You may feel that caring for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is an uphill battle – and on some days, you might be right. But, it’s important to keep these tips in mind to ensure they’re comfortable, healthy, and safe.
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