Initially, the Alzheimer’s patient may be able to function independently though with difficulty. But with the progression of the disease, the patient will become increasingly dependent on others as he becomes incapable of taking care of himself. Here are some tips to help you cope when caring for an Alzheimer’s patient.
How to Deal With Alzheimer’s Disease
It is advisable to start planning for taking care of the Alzheimer’s patient even in early stages of the disease instead of waiting till the last minute. That way the patient also can have a say in the decisions made. You will need to consult all family members to decide who will be responsible for taking care of the patient both in the short-term and long-term.
This can be a difficult responsibility because sooner or later the patient is going to require round-the-clock help. Family members have to rally around whosoever volunteers to take care of the patient as it is a challenging and emotionally draining task. Explore if there is a possibility of domestic help in your area, even if it’s in the form of private managers. Do not hesitate to contact friends and relatives to ease some of the burden on you whenever the need arises.
Seek legal advice on such issues as who will play the role of a guardian, who will have the power of attorney for making financial and healthcare decisions in the future on behalf of the patient. If need be, let the patient make out a will when he is still in a position to exercise sound judgment.
Alzheimer’s patient has not only the classical symptom of problems with remembering things but also the symptoms of difficulty with concentration, confusion, odd behavior, emotional outbursts and sometimes even hallucinations and paranoia. These issues can make the caretaking stressful. It helps to remember that it is not the person but the disease “acting up”. Since eventually family and friends are anyway going to find out about the condition, it is best to let them know about it and sensitize them to the disease so that they can interact more empathetically with the patient.
Make sure the person takes regularly the medications for Alzheimer’s disease on time, preferably under your watch. Encourage the person to communicate with you. Maintain eye contact when speaking and be aware of the signals you may be sending out by the tone and loudness of your voice and the body language. Be warm and loving in the relationship. Whenever instructions are needed to be given to the person, make sure they are simple to understand and are orderly in a step-by-step manner, and if need be, in writing.
Help the patient stay active by going out on daily walks together, going out to eat or travelling. Eventually the patient is going to need help with even brushing, grooming and dressing. Be gentle and understanding in extending that help, intervening only when necessary. Let the person help you in domestic chores to the extent possible as this can boost his self-esteem.
Play soothing music for some hours of the day as it will relax not only the patient but also you. Stay calm if the person becomes agitated or aggressive, and try to divert his attention to another issue or activity. If he has symptoms of hallucinations or paranoia, do not delay consulting a psychiatrist.
Pay attention to safety features in the house. Remove unnecessary items of furniture and other objects so that the house is uncluttered and allows free and easy movement. Place railings and grab bars on the stairs and in the bathroom to minimize the risk of falls. If the patient has problems with balancing, install a barrier to the stairs. Install smoke alarms in every room.
Cover the unused electrical sockets with childproof plugs. Keep all medicines and other hazardous chemicals under lock and key. Place written instructions wherever necessary in the house, say in the kitchen and bathroom, to guide the patient. Convince the patient about giving up driving as it can be difficult in the late stages of the disease. It may be a good idea to have the patient wear a bracelet with his ID and phone number on it, especially because he is liable to wander.
If at any point you feel that you are becoming overwhelmed by the responsibility of taking care of the person all by yourself, explore other options. Check out care facilities available in your area. Allow the person to adjust to the transition gradually and smoothly by communicating on the issue.
You need not feel guilty on that count feeling that you are abandoning the person. You can still monitor the care he gets and visit the facility often to keep in touch. After all, what matters more is the care he gets, no matter from what source.
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