Alzheimer’s Association reports that in 2020,  more than five million adults- of all ages, will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. This number is growing speedily over the years. In fact, research predicts that there would be around 13.8 million cases of Alzheimer’s dementia by the year 2050. 

Alzheimer’s is often classified by memory loss, but can also result in cognitive impairments that affect thinking and behavior. Due to the severity of the diseases, taking care of a person with Alzheimer’s can be a difficult task. The task requires extreme patience, flexibility, along with the ability to remain calm. If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and you are their primary caretaker, you can take the following tips into consideration.

Educate yourself on the disease

Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease. While the general symptoms are similar, the disease affects every individual in a different manner. Therefore, if your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it is essential to take time to learn about the disease. In general, Alzheimer’s is classified as a brain illness that impacts memory, thinking, and behavior. With that said, the disease is not a normal part of aging.  There are three levels of Alzheimer’s, which include, mild, moderate, and severe. 

If your loved one suffers from a mild case of Alzheimer’s, they would still be able to perform acts of daily living without the need for a full-time caretaker. A person with mild Alzheimer’s may struggle with concentrating or remembering events that took place recently. Additionally, at this stage, the individual may also have impaired writing or problem-solving abilities. 

In the second stage, the individual may struggle with recognizing the members of their family, following instructions, performing the day to day tasks, having a regular and balanced sleep schedule, remembering directions, controlling their urinary and fecal continence. At this point, a shift in personality would also be observed.  

The third stage of Alzheimer’s is the most severe. At this stage, your loved ones may not have the ability to carry out a conversation and perform the acts of daily living. Additionally, the severe stage of Alzheimer’s is also classified by losing the ability to chew or swallow food, as well as to losing the awareness of the social environment. During their stage, hiring a full-time professional healthcare worker becomes a necessity.

Establish Schedules

When taking care of a person with Alzheimer’s, it is imperative to establish a daily routine.  For a person suffering from Alzheimer’s, deviating from a consistent routine can be quite confusing. Therefore, if you are looking after someone with Alzheimer’s, set a schedule for all the daily activities. For instance, if you are serving breakfast at 8:30 am, make sure that the same schedule must be followed every day. However, if the changes in schedule are unavoidable, make sure to remain patient with the person.

Have them play an active role

Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s can often struggle with deflated self-esteem, especially when they are unable to carry out their own tasks. As a caretaker, you can work on their self-efficacy by allotting them a degree of responsibility which they can handle. For instance, you can encourage them to brush their own teeth, put on makeup, or brush their hair and etc. This would provide them with a sense of autonomy, which can essentially boost their self-esteem. 

Offer simple instructions

For a caregiver, the most difficult aspect of looking after someone in the severe stage of Alzheimer’s is carrying out a conversation. People with this disease struggle to remember specific words. They also have difficulty in interpreting the context of the conversation being carried out. Hence, it is imperative to carry out the conversation with immense patience. You can: 

  • Maintain eye contact throughout the conversation
  • Exhibit friendly facial expressions 
  • Simplify your questions and ask one question at a time
  • Speak to them using their name
  • Maintain a warm and inviting demeanor
  • Regulate a soft, soothing tone of voice. However, make sure that your tone is not condescending or patronizing 
  • Remain patient and calm, especially when dealing with a burst of anger
Converse without distractions

Another factor that influences conversations is the presence of distractions. If you are trying to talk to a person with Alzheimer’s, be sure to get rid of all the factors that can be distracting, such as the television running in the background. This way, you can apply the preceding techniques to carry out an efficient and effective conversation.

Taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s can be a full-time job. If you are spending time with your loved one every day, you can feel lonely. Therefore, by communicating with them, a channel to release your frustrations can be created.

Create a safe environment

The everyday environment can be quite unsafe for a person suffering from Alzheimer’s. As a caretaker, it is your responsibility to take preventive measures to ensure their safety. You can make slight modifications to the environment, to make sure that your loved one remains safe. Here are a few incentives that you can take. 

  • You can baby-proof or add padding to any sharp furniture around the house. 
  • You can dress them in comfortable attire. 
  • You can remove the additional, unnecessary mirror from the house. Seeing one’s own reflection can be confusing for individuals dealing with Alzheimer’s.
  • You can test the water temperature on your own skin before giving them a bath. This will ensure that the water is neither too cold nor too hot for your loved ones. 
  • You can install safety locks on the stove. 
Serve nutritious food

As people with Alzheimer’s struggle with memory loss, they can often forget to eat. Therefore, as a caretaker, it is your responsibility to make sure that they consume regular, healthy meals. To cater to the issue of chewing, you must provide them with nutritious food, which is easy to chew and swallow. Some great brain food that is recommended to eat are some green leafy vegetables, some fatty fish, berries, herbal tea and walnuts! If you can try to avoid sugary drinks, refined carbs, food high in trans fats, highly processed foods, alcohol, and fish high in mercury. 

Taking care of a person with Alzheimer’s is a difficult and demanding job. If you work full-time, you must take assistance from trained professionals offered by a home-care service who are experts in Alzheimer’s care

For more senior insights, head back to the My Nurse Family blog.

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