The effects of Alzheimer’s disease are devastating; it turns the people we love into someone unrecognizable, and to add to the heartbreak, we one day will be strangers to them. As the disease progresses, it becomes harder and harder for the person to care for themselves, and eventually, familial caregivers are no longer able to provide the level of care required. If you find yourself in the position of having to care for a loved one with this disease, here are some tips to help with the most common tasks you will face.
Keeping a Lid on Frustration
It is common for people with Alzheimer’s to experience frustration brought on by the newfound difficulty of completing tasks that were once routine; changes in personality may also contribute to a greater degree of agitation. As a caregiver, you can help minimize this problem in several ways.
Allow extra time to get things done so you do not feel the need to rush your loved one. When it comes to scheduling the day, keep in mind when your loved one is at his calmest and most agreeable and aim to get the more challenging tasks done within this timeframe. Limiting choices can also help—instead of offering up the whole contents of the kitchen for lunch or a whole closet full of clothes for the day’s outfit, give him two options and have him choose one.
Communicating with an Alzheimer’s patient can be challenging, but there are some strategies for doing it more successfully. It is important to make sure they are focused on you, so it is a good idea to make eye contact and to say their name; be level with their head—if you are hovering above them, this may make them feel a bit afraid and it will be harder to focus on what you are saying. If you are going to do something that involves touching them, tell them what you are going to do first so avoid startling them.
Speak in a calm and friendly voice, even if you are feeling anything but—if you speak to them in a negative way, they are likely to mirror that back to you. If you are asking questions, wait for an answer before asking the next one. Speak in short sentences that contain only one idea at a time.
The structure can be very helpful in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. A routine may help minimize outbursts and agitation and it will surely be easier from a caregiving perspective. Work to establish set times for meals, bathing, and recreational activities. The end of the day can be challenging, with many patients experiencing agitation, fear, and mood changes once evening sets in.
A nighttime routine can help with this. Establish some sort of routine in the evening to help prepare your loved one for sleep. Perhaps that may involve turning off the TV and other sources of noise, putting on some relaxing music, an evening bath, or other activities that help with winding down.