Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can be one of the biggest challenges you’ll ever face. Those with a cognitive disease are living with a progressive loss of mental and physical functions. This is not only difficult for them but is hard for loved ones to witness.
It may seem as if there isn’t much you can do. And there may be days when you feel deeply the near helplessness for both of you. But there are ways you can ease the frustrations and overcome some of the daily hurdles.
Caregiving situations are always specific to the person but consider these 7 suggestions to see if there might be a few you could try:
One of the harder adjustments for any of us to make comes as the result of losing the ability to take care of ourselves. Any options you can find that will help them hold on to their independence as long as possible is worth exploring.
Begin by looking at the daily activities that may be causing agitation and search for suggestions to make them easier, such as help with dressing, eating or bathing. When they express anger or anxiety try to find ways to respond that are calming and reassuring. As time passes, you’ll also need to reset your expectations about what they are capable of doing.
Life for both of you will be easier if you set and then keep to a scheduled routine. Having said that, however, you’ll need to also remember that one of the first rules of caregiving is to be as flexible as possible.
Adding structure and different cues to the day and night are beneficial for those struggling to make sense of their confusing new world. But a routine can help them recognize that it is time to wake up, bathe, get dressed, have a meal or go to bed. The use of lighting and music can also help set the stage.
Avoid deciding ahead of time what your loved one will be able to do as this can result in taking away activities that they could still enjoy. It’s important for them to live a full and engaging life however that may be possible.
Find ways they can still help around the house, such as folding the laundry, helping prepare dinner or watering the garden. Encourage them to be a part of the household’s life. And remember, like all of us, they too need socialization. Invite visitors at the time of day that is best for your loved one. Just take care that any activities don’t create overstimulation or stress.
It’s important that your loved one remains physically and emotionally active for as long as possible. Discover what exercises they can still take part in and how you might be able to assist. There are also games and other activities that can help them maintain their mental strength as well.
One of the bigger challenges between those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers is how to communicate, especially as the disease progresses. Keep what you say short and simple. It’s better to only convey one thought or question at a time. Remember to smile, make eye contact and use touch or other gestures. Sometimes the most effective and compassionate communication doesn’t use words.
Most people have no or little experience with caring for someone with a cognitive illness. The more you learn, the better prepared you will be to travel the road ahead and to help your loved one navigate as well.
With education, you can also understand what may be coming your way and how best you can respond. Search out reliable resources so you can learn as much as you can, not only about the disease but also what support may be available and take advantage of those sources.
Safety should always be a priority so take time to walk through your home and assess each room. Look for any needed changes required to keep your loved one safe.
Some common hazards include removing any cords in the walking path as well as throw rugs that can cause tripping. Pay special attention to the lighting and if your loved one can clearly see during the day and at night. Lock or put away any tools or chemicals that might be found, including knives in the kitchen. Keep medications out of sight or in a locked drawer and post a list of emergency numbers nearby for police, fire department, hospitals and poison control helplines.
It’s beneficial if you can accept early on that in order for you to provide the best care possible for your loved one, you’re going to need support and respite.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is too difficult to shoulder alone. As early in the process as possible, find out what support services are available in your area. Talk with your family about who can pitch in and where they can be most useful. Keep a list of those who offer their help, including neighbors, friends and groups you may be involved in. There are many tasks that won’t require your personal attention. Let others step in.
We understand the challenges of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, especially if you are the sole primary caregiver. Feelings of being overwhelmed are common and reasonable. Although it may seem as if someone has come into your world and tipped it upside down, there are still steps you can take to make things a little easier.
We hope you’ll find these 7 steps helpful and can implement those that apply best to your situation. If you would like more information or ideas on how to traverse this time, please reach out. We are here to help.
Call (202) 905-0018 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.