Welcome to our April 2018 Newsletter
In working with hundreds of families over almost 30 years, I’ve found Alzheimer’s to be one of the more complicated, overwhelming and devastating diseases. Over time, the disease can change a loved one into a seemingly different person. Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is a challenging, demanding, draining, consuming and exhausting task. It is important for caregivers to be well educated about the disease and to ask for help and information whenever necessary. It is critical that caregivers, especially family members providing care, take a break from time to time. Refusing to take breaks is probably the number one mistake I see. My mother failed to take breaks as she erroneously believed that no one could give the care that she could give. The result was that her own health was wrecked and affected her ability to care for my grandmother. The disease manifests differently in different people, so it is important to be attentive to the symptoms and behaviors your elderly loved one exhibits. This will help you find the best possible way to create a positive caring environment. Below are some tips for caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Create a Safe Environment
During the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, your loved one may be able to continue living on their own, but it is important to keep a very close watch on them and be aware of when that begins to change. As Alzheimer’s progresses, it is important to take precautions around the home to keep your loved one safe from falls. You may need to remove obstacles around the home and install ramps to make it easier for the elderly person to get around. Another safety measure is to install locks on substances like alcohol and things like guns that can be dangerous to your loved one. Think about fire safety as well and be sure that these things are only used when your loved one is supervised. Hot water is another potential danger. As Alzheimer’s progresses, you may need to lower the thermostat so that the water cannot get as hot and potentially burn the senior.
Keep Frustration to a Minimum
When your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, this is usually combined with a lot of frustration. A person with Alzheimer’s disease can experience frustration with forgetting to do things they were once able to do. They experience frustration because they struggle to follow and understand tasks and communication. Frustration can also come from loss of independence. It is important that caregivers recognize these frustrations and take steps to reduce the frustration. Provide your loved one with choices whenever possible. Allow your loved one to help with tasks they are capable of, even if it takes longer. Make directions and requests simple. Break the task down into smaller steps. When your loved one needs to focus, eliminate distractions and create a calm environment. Be patient with your loved one and take time to allow them to do tasks.
Work at Communication
Communication often becomes difficult when an elderly loved one has Alzheimer’s disease. This is an area that takes extreme patience. When communicating with your loved one, they may get discouraged if they can’t understand you or you can’t understand them. Always maintain eye contact with your loved one when communicating. Keep communication simple and to the point, but positive. When your loved one is attempting to communicate with you, be sure to allow them to talk. Be careful not to interrupt or try to complete their sentences. This can add more frustration. Keep conversations going with your loved one as long as possible by encouraging them and truly listening to concerns. Use physical touch, such as holding a hand or touching a shoulder, to communicate with your loved one. Don’t take outbursts personally (admittedly, easier said than done). The illness causes you loved one to do and say things they may not normally do or say. Many of my clients have expressed seeing their spouse that had been so easy going through years of marriage, become irritable, and even unkind. Always be aware of your tone and keep it kind.
Again, sometimes the best care you can give your loved one is to care for yourself by taking a break.
Alzheimer’s is a disease with many varying characteristics. It can wreak havoc on the person our loved one once was. Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be frustrating, difficult and exhausting. However, patience is the overarching quality that a caregiver must possess to deal with an elderly person with Alzheimer’s disease in a loving and positive manner.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us.