Posted by: Gina Salamone
Caring for the elderly suffering from Alzheimer’s is fundamentally different from caring for a healthy aging person, so family members of dementia patients tend to consider memory care. Alzheimer’s is a disease that attacks a person’s brain cells affecting behavior, thoughts, and memory. The worst part about this disease is that it’s progressive. Furthermore, it doesn’t have a cure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2021, over 6 million Americans older than 65 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 75 percent of this population is 75 years old and above. One in every nine people older than 65 has Alzheimer’s, and nearly two-thirds of Americans who have Alzheimer’s are women.
Patients with Alzheimer’s require daily care and assistance, whether from family members or professional caregivers. The following are helpful tips on caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Care Tips
#1 Understand The Disease
To provide the best possible care, you must learn about the disease. Caregivers should know that as the disease progresses, the symptoms may worsen, making caring for your loved ones even more challenging. It helps to mentally prepare yourself by understanding the different stages of the disease as well as their accompanying symptoms. Knowing what you’re about to deal with will help you prepare and plan.
Alzheimer’s falls under three stages – mild, moderate, and severe.
Mild – People who have Alzheimer’s in the early stages can still function independently, and they can continue with social activities without a problem. However, they may struggle to remember or concentrate. They also tend to forget specific names. Other signs that your loved ones may have Alzheimer’s are when they show difficulty solving problems and writing.
Moderate – When the disease progresses to moderate Alzheimer’s, the person will exhibit substantial memory loss and confusion. They will have trouble recognizing close friends and family members, plus following instructions and organizing become a problem. In addition, they’ll have difficulty performing activities of daily living such as dressing and bathing.
It’s also common for patients to feel restless or have trouble sleeping, get lost, and show personality changes.
Severe – The last stage of Alzheimer’s requires 24/7 help with almost all daily tasks such as eating, walking, sitting up, dressing, bathing, etc. By this time, the patient will not be able to converse coherently with you. They may even have difficulty chewing their food. In addition, they won’t be able to recognize their own family.
#2 Establish a Routine
You can make the elderly more comfortable by establishing a daily routine. A routine allows them to be familiar with some activities despite living with a disease that affects their memory.
As a caregiver, you should avoid making major changes to the routine, as this will only lead to more confusion. However, if changes are necessary, introduce them gradually to the patient and not abruptly.
#3 Plan Activities Ahead
To keep the elderly engaged and entertained, we suggest you plan their activities. There are so many things they can do even if they have dementia.
Some of the activities that will keep the elderly active and engaged are listening to music, dancing, exercising such as stretching and walking, baking, cooking, watching a movie, visiting family and friends, going to the park or a café, and doing household chores like folding clothes or doing the laundry.
You can initiate an outing if the elderly are in a good mood. For example, some patients feel bright in the morning while others are more energetic at night. Observing their energy level can be your cue on when you should plan the outing.
#4 Encourage Communication
As the disease worsens, the elderly’s ability to communicate with you becomes affected. They will have trouble remembering words and struggle to interpret what you say. It’s also likely that they’ll lose their train of thought.
As a caregiver, you can implement several communication strategies such as:
- Maintaining eye contact and smiling when talking to the elderly
- Asking only one question at a time and waiting for the patient to answer
- Using their name
- Making sure your body language is relaxed
- Speak with a soft voice, but don’t “baby talk” them.
#5 Prepare Nutritious Meals for Them
Since Alzheimer’s affects their memory and independence, the elderly cannot be able to prepare their meals themselves. Therefore, as their caregiver, you should plan their meals, ensuring that they are nutritious and healthy to give them energy and keep them in good shape.
Remember that some Alzheimer’s patients can no longer remember how to cook, and it’s also unsafe as they may leave the stove turned on. It’s also possible that they are disoriented with time, so they won’t know when to eat. In addition, some patients have lost their ability to taste and smell foods.
When serving meals, do it at the same time, which means you should stick to a schedule. You should also serve the food on plates with vibrant and bright colors as this helps emphasize the meal.
Serving bigger portions is okay during breakfast, and don’t forget to assist them with taking their vitamins. Another important reminder – make sure the food you prepare is easy to chew.
#6 Their Safety Is a Priority
People with Alzheimer’s are prone to injury and danger. It’s your responsibility to keep them safe. Even if you put signs that say “Danger” or “Keep Out,” they may not understand it.
How can you keep them safe?
- Apply striking-colored tapes on the edges of steps
- Put a cushion on sharp corners of all the furniture in your home
- Hide mirrors in your house
- Install safety locks on the stove
#7 Consider Memory Care
Trust us, very few people have the time to be full-time caregivers to patients with Alzheimer’s. If you’re burned out and can no longer commit to caring for your loved ones because of work and other obligations, you may want to consider memory care.
Memory care communities are just like assisted living facilities, but their main focus is memory-related disorders like Alzheimer’s. The goal of the community is to provide your loved ones with a strong support system while providing a safe environment for them to thrive.
This blog appears courtesy of SeniorLivingExperts.com