Many thanks to senior living expert Holly Klamer from SeniorLiving.org for sharing valuable information about how to provide care for someone with Alzheimer’s. For more information on National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, click here.
Alzheimer’s disease is a complex progressive brain disorder that is irreversible and that causes a slow deterioration of memory and thinking skills. It is not considered a normal part of aging, but it is the most common cause of dementia. It’s likely that Alzheimer’s will impact our lives in some fashion either by facing the disease ourselves or by having a friend or family member experience it. If you have a family member or someone else in your life who is struggling with this condition, you may be overwhelmed with the task of managing Alzheimer’s care. November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, so let’s look at some important statistics about the disease and explore tips to help you care for someone with Alzheimer’s.
Consider the stats
- Currently, Alzheimer’s disease is 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
- Over 5 million people in the United States are living with the condition.
- That figure that is expected to jump to 14 million by the year 2050.
- Over 16 million people in the United States care for someone with Alzheimer’s unpaid. That care is valued at over 18 billion hours and $232 billion dollars.
When it’s your responsibility to care for someone with Alzheimer’s, it’s important to remember that it will take her longer to process things than it will take you. Take it slowly with her activities, be patient with her as she processes information and give her time to work things out. This may be frustrating, particularly if you were used to her pre-Alzheimer’s pace, but take a deep breath and practice patience as best as you can.
As you provide care for someone with Alzheimer’s, recognize the responsibility of ensuring the safety of your loved one at all times. She mustn’t have any opportunity to accidentally hurt herself while moving around the house. Dementia patients struggle with their levels of judgment, so it can be harder for them to keep themselves safe. To reduce the risk of an accident, make sure to keep walkways clear and well-lit throughout the house and to cover slippery surfaces with a mat for traction. Ensure that stairs, bathrooms and any other tricky areas of the house have handrails to grab onto. Remove any fire hazards and supervise your loved one when using the kitchen or heating system.
Stick to a routine
Having the same routine every day can be an effective tactic to help your loved one remember what’s going on. This will also help her be less likely to feel overwhelmed. In general, the most challenging or overwhelming events should take place early in the day, when she has the most energy. Use the afternoon and evening for more relaxing activities. There will undoubtedly be times while caring for someone with Alzheimer’s that you need to shift the routine, but keeping things as similar as possible will make it easier and less confusing for your loved one.
Tune in to mood changes
It may take some practice, but learning how your loved one’s moods fluctuate throughout the day can be helpful. Avoid pushing something on her if she feels overwhelmed or tired, as this may only confuse her more. Give her breaks when necessary. Stay flexible and willing to make changes to your day as needed.
If the television or music is always on when you are trying to have conversations with a dementia patient, it can become difficult her to focus. Reduce distractions throughout the house so she can focus on one thing at a time without getting confused. If you or her live with other people, collaborate with them on how to manage things like conversation. Ask them to talk one at a time and to take things slowly during a conversation with your loved one to make it easier for her to follow what’s going on.
Allow and encourage independence
One of the things that can be the most frustrating for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is feeling like they’ve lost control of their lives. When someone else is making all their decisions, it can feel overwhelming, especially while facing intermittent confusion. Pay attention to what your loved one can and can’t do on her own. Allow her to do things independently when it’s safe. To care for someone with Alzheimer’s can be quite the challenge, but it’s important to encourage her to make her own decisions within reason. Instead of just telling her what to do, eat and wear throughout the day, try presenting her with a few different options to choose from.
Caring for someone with dementia is a huge challenge, so be patient. Don’t be afraid to try new things if something doesn’t work. Over time, you and your loved one will learn what works best and what doesn’t. Every Alzheimer’s patient has a different unique experience, and so your loved one will likely need care that’s personalized to her needs.
If you’re struggling with Alzheimer’s care or need to consider senior living options, be sure to talk to your loved one’s doctor, and don’t be afraid to bring in extra support either.
If you’re looking for caregiver training resources, click here.
If you’re looking for online resources such as a community resource finder, e-learning workshops, professional care certifications or online support communities, click here.
Holly Klamer focuses her writing on issues related to seniors, aging and retirement. She is a frequent contributor on many blogs and websites that help provide comprehensive resources on senior living options.
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