Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive and fatal brain disease that causes memory loss and problems with thinking and behavior, among other symptoms. This article will provide you with some tips for caring for a person with Alzheimer’s Disease. It does not constitute or replace medical advice.
Dealing with the Diagnosis. Caregivers should contact organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association www.alz.org and the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers. They will be able to provide you with information about the disease, its treatment, and other caregiver resources. Find a support group where you can discuss your concerns and questions. Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming. If you can’t attend a support group due to time constraints, consider an on-line support group. Think about using adult day care or respite services to help you meet the daily demands of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient and give you a break.
The basic behaviors of every day life can become a struggle for both the patient and the caregiver. The following tips deal with daily tasks that Alzheimer’s caregivers must handle.
Communication. A person with Alzheimer’s Disease may experience difficulty in communicating with their caregiver. This may be due to an inability to find the right words, easily losing their train of thought, or inventing new words to describe familiar objects. It may be helpful to make sure you are letting the patient have enough time to think about and describe what they are trying to communicate. Don’t interrupt or try to finish their sentences for them. If the person uses the wrong word or can’t seem to find a word, do try to guess it for them. Use short, simple words and phrases, and above all be patient.
Bathing. Develop a routine for bathing if possible, as routine can be calming for an Alzheimer’s patient. Try to plan for the time of day when the patient is usually calm and agreeable. As a caregiver, respect the fact that bathing can be uncomfortable and even frightening for an Alzheimer’s patient. Tell the person everything you are going to do up front, and then continue to verbalize everything you do. Have everything you need on hand for the bath, and make sure the room and bath are comfortable temperatures. Never leave an Alzheimer’s patient alone in the bathtub.
Dressing. Try to make dressing a routine, too, with getting out of his or her pajamas and into clothing happening at the same time every day. Make sure you encourage and allow the Alzheimer’s patient to do as much of their dressing as they can. Allow plenty of time for getting dressed so there is no pressure or rushing. Allow the patient to choose from a limited number of outfits, and arrange the articles of clothing in the order they are put on to help the patient make their own choices. Make sure the offered clothing is comfortable and easy to put on and take off (velcro and elastic versus tiny buttons or snaps.)
Eating. People with Alzheimer’s should be encouraged to eat a healthy diet. Caregivers should try to keep mealtimes routine, while offering a small variety of familiar foods (too many choices can be overwhelming). Be aware of choking hazards, as Alzheimer’s can present chewing and swallowing difficulties as the disease progresses. Serve small portions and offer healthy snacks during the day. Try to keep mealtimes calm and relaxed, allowing the Alzheimer’s patient plenty of time to eat and enjoy your company without becoming anxious or confused.
I hope you found this information helpful to you as a caregiver.