Alzheimer’s disease afflicts someone in the United States every 68 seconds.
Many aging adults who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are being cared for at home by someone in the family. That someone may be you.
Caring for a senior loved one whose loss of cognition and functional abilities is rapidly progressing can be a challenging task and some days feels overwhelming.
Help for Caregivers and Senior Loved Ones
Dementia is a progressive disease which can affect our senior loved ones for many years. Caregivers who care for someone with dementia often will need help keeping their senior safe, engaged and also keeping themselves healthy enough to continue to be caregivers.
We know how difficult caregiving can be and want to give you a few tips to help make your job a little easier:
- Care for yourself to keep yourself able to give your best to others. Give yourself time to rest and remember that you are doing your best!
- Ask for help from other family members, friends or service agencies when things get too difficult for you – if not before. Get advice from your senior’s doctor.
- Find a support group to get information, coping strategies and more tips on what might work in a particular situation. When needed, seek out respite care so you can take a break and recharge your battery.
- When talking with someone with Alzheimer’s disease, use a calm tone of voice, use short phrases and simple words. Call them by name and get their attention before speaking to avoid repeating yourself every time you talk (and raising your own frustration level).
- Reduce distractions to help the senior focus on the task at hand, whether that is dressing, eating, or just conversing.
- Plan time in your day to accomplish specific tasks, such as bathing or outings, at the time when your senior is the most calm. Going for a bath before dinner may not be the best idea if they “sundown” and their behaviors escalate with the setting sun.
- Be prepared before you try to do any task such as dressing or bathing or eating. Lay out the clothes, shampoos, towels, brush, toothpaste on the tube, dinner plate, utensils and napkins at hand and food ready to eat before you begin any activity. Attention spans become shortened and agitation may occur if you are not ready to go.
- Whenever you try to engage your senior in a task, give clear instructions that are simple, such as raise your arm now or zip up your zipper to keep them on track.
- Stick to a routine. Eating at the same time of day, toileting at the same time, watching tv programs at a specific time, taking a walk at the same time will help keep your senior focused and calm. Be prepared to adapt the schedule however if his or her needs or desires change.
- As your senior’s disease gets progressively worse, be aware that many tasks that were able to be performed will no longer. Be alert to choking when she eats or drinks. Realize that behaviors and mood can change quickly.
- Distract your senior if they start to become unfocused or agitated with whatever task is at hand. Ask them to help with chores that you are doing to keep them focused and occupied. Boredom quickly leads to agitation.
- Be realistic in their abilities. Don’t expect them to brush their teeth if they can’t remember the steps to accomplish this or take a walk around the block if they fatigue easily.
- If your senior is prone to wandering, have them wear an ID bracelet or medical alert bracelet. Keep their name and address in their shoe. There are GPS clothing items available, which you may find helpful if you need to locate a wandering senior. Keep a recent photo handy if needed to search for them. Keep the exterior doors secured so that they can’t unknowingly exit.
- Keep the home environment as safe as possible. Store medications out of their reach and use latches to secure any unsafe substance or chemicals. Remove clutter and fall hazards in the home.
These are just a few ideas to help you keep your senior safe – – and you healthy too!
Do you have some tips for others of things that work well for you and your senior? We would love to hear them!