Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Even though the risk of developing this neurodegenerative disease increases* with age, it’s not a normal part of the aging process. According to the CDC, in 2013 about 5 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease and it’s estimated that by 2050, 14 million older adults will have it. The underlying cause of this disease is unknown and, at this point; there’s no cure*. The disease affects person’s cognitive abilities and overall quality of life, which is why the affected individual needs attention. If your family member has Alzheimer’s this article is ideal for you. Here, you’ll find ten useful care tips to improve* the daily life of the loved one.
1. Don’t be in Denial
This is imperative. It’s natural for family members to be in denial when their loved one shows symptoms of Alzheimer’s or when you hear the diagnosis. You don’t want it to be true and, frankly, the entire situation is overwhelming. Instead of being in denial, you should strive to be more proactive. Bear in mind that your family member didn’t lose* all memories just yet, and they pick up on how you feel. If they notice you refuse to face the truth, they’ll start avoiding treatment or plan for the future just to show “they’re fine.” Consult a healthcare provider, connect with other people whose family members have Alzheimer’s and be strong. Remember, if you are a caregiver, your attitude reflects on the patient’s.
2. Create or keep a Routine
People who suffer from Alzheimer’s prefer a usual schedule and settings, and it’s difficult for them to keep up with changes. That’s why you should establish a routine that makes them feel comfortable. But sometimes, you have to break that routine e.g. to take them to their doctor. When breaking the schedule is imminent, you should do it carefully. Leave reminder in the kitchen, living room, and other visible places. In fact, notes are both practical and helpful. The person with Alzheimer’s reads the reminder every day and knows what’s about to happen early on, and also individuals with this disease often understand what they read when they don’t know what others say. Post-it notes should be one of the most trusted allies in Alzheimer’s care; they also help patients get around their home more easily.
3. Avoid asking “Do you Remember?”
Your attitude plays a critical role in care for Alzheimer’s patients. Most of the time, when your family member forgets something or someone you ask “Don’t you remember”, “Do you remember”, or “Can’t you remember” and although these questions are harmless they can make the person feel frustrated, depressed, and their confidence suffers. After all, the question is pointless because of course they can’t remember and asking it only makes them feel bad. Instead, when they can’t remember something you should explain or introduce the person or topic.
4. Communicate Properly
Communicating with a person who has Alzheimer’s disease is a challenging task. It can be difficult to understand or to be understood at the same time. In order to care for the loved properly, you also have to master the communication skills. Here are some tips recommended by the National Institute on Aging:
- Choose short sentences, familiar and straightforward words
- Speak with calm tone
- Avoid talking to the person with Alzheimer’s like he/she is a baby
- When having a conversation, minimize distractions such as volume on TV or radio
- Call person by the name, make eye contact, and only speak when you have their full attention
- Be patient when waiting for response, never finish their sentences to speed up the conversation
- If the person is struggling to find a right word, gently mention it
- Frame instructions and questions in a positive way
- Show you’re listening
5. Limit the Movement and Sounds
You can’t keep a person with Alzheimer’s locked inside their home forever, but you also have to be careful when you’re out. People with this disease are often afraid and overwhelming of big crowds and too many noises. They feel disoriented as well. Here’s how to deal with these situations:
- Don’t go to busy and crowded malls, go to small stores
- If you have to go to the mall, go during the time of the day when it’s less* likely to be busy
- When relatives are visiting, get organized in the small groups. Although your loved one may love to see entire family together e.g. for holidays, he/she might get overwhelmed by too many people in a small place. Instead, get organized into smaller groups and see the loved one at different times
- When you’re doing some activity such as puzzles, or even when you’re talking, make sure the TV is not on. People with Alzheimer’s tend to lose* concentration faster when there are distractions. You should designate the time when to watch TV and keep it turned off until then
6. Don’t Argue, Correct, or Disagree
You can’t win an argument with a person who suffers from Alzheimer’s. That’s why you shouldn’t argue, correct them when they say something wrong, or disagree with them. That makes them more stressed out. Despite their progressing disease, people with Alzheimer’s still want to be appreciated or taken seriously. When you go out of your way to contradict everything you say, it could make them feel unappreciated.
7. Find things they can do
The last thing a person with Alzheimer’s wants is to feel helpless and useless. To encourage* them and make them feel happy, you should find some things they can do. Even those seemingly unimportant activities such as folding towels can have a positive impact on their emotional state. There’s always something they can do, be creative and pick out some small assignments each day.
8. Be Ready for “Sundowning”
At some point, a person with Alzheimer’s gets upset more easily, and scientists refer to it as sundowning. In order to keep a person calm, you should ensure the home is well-lit because they feel more comfortable in these environments. Furthermore, when the night comes he/she might be convinced the intruder will break in and start to panic. Instead of dismissing or contradicting their fear (tip 6), you should acknowledge it, and make sure they see you check whether the doors and windows are locked.
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9. Learn how to deal with the challenge of eating
Just like communication, eating too can be a challenge. Some patients feel like eating all the time, while others have to be encouraged to eat a healthy diet. A standard part of Alzheimer’s care is knowing how to ensure your loved one eats adequately. These tips will help you:
- Give the person food choices, but limit the selection to a few items only
- Consider mealtimes as opportunities for social interaction
- Limit noise and distractions, aim for quiet and calm atmosphere
- Maintain familiar mealtime routines
- Make sure mealtimes are at the same time every day
- Choose dishes and eating tools that promote independence
10. Don’t Mention Topics that Irritate a Person
Every Alzheimer’s patient has certain subjects that provoke him/her, even if it didn’t before their disease. When you know what that topic is, don’t mention it and make sure others avoid as well, in their presence. Otherwise, the loved one will be upset, and that’s not really what you want. If, in any case, a person with Alzheimer’s becomes upset, quickly change the topic or start with some activity.
Caring for a person who’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is a challenging task, and it can be difficult to adjust to certain changes, but bear in mind it’s even harder for them. Although things are moving fast, make sure there’s still some routine they feel comfortable with. These tips aimed to make your and the loved one’s lives easier. It’s always useful to connect with others who’re going through the same thing and consult a professional who will provide more tips about Alzheimer’s care.