Each September, World Alzheimer’s Month is observed by people all around the globe, so as to raise awareness about the disease and to try and erase the stigma associated with it. It sometimes seems that it has acquired a highly negative perception in Tupelo and elsewhere throughout the country and the world in general. While this is understandable, it’s unfair and unfortunate for those afflicted by this dread disease, because it often makes them outcasts in society. Senior home care professionals recognize that Alzheimer’s patients require special care and that there is a time for home care and a time for residential care. Here are some ways to help Alzheimer’s patients while still at home.
Prepare for what’s coming
It’s a good idea to educate yourself about Alzheimer’s, so you know what to expect from your loved one or from an individual whom you’re caring for. At the beginning of the disease, it will be possible to help an individual maintain some semblance of independence, but as the disease progresses, it will eventually mean 24-hour care for a patient. This is obviously a very difficult eventuality to accept, but it’s best that you do accept it and begin making plans for the difficult road ahead.
Develop a support plan
It’s important to develop some plan for supporting your Alzheimer’s patient because it’s very easy to neglect your own needs during this period. It won’t do either of you any good if you become burned out in your efforts to provide care, so remember that you can’t do everything yourself, and you should reach out for whatever help may be available. Whenever possible, you should increase your caregiving skills, so you can be more efficient as a caregiver. It will also be worth your while to use whatever resources are available to you, such as a support group or some kind of community Alzheimer’s group.
Expect communication difficulties
As Alzheimer’s takes hold of your loved one, you may notice some steady deterioration in their ability to communicate. For instance, they may have difficulty finding the right words to express their feelings, they may become more easily confused, and they may even have unexplained outbursts. Try to remember that your loved one can’t help being afflicted by the disease and that you being upset with them will only increase the stress level they’re going through. It’s best if you keep all communications short and very clear, and you should speak slowly so that your own communications can be more easily processed. Be prepared to express something in a different way if your loved one can’t understand what you originally said.
Establish a routine
It will be beneficial for your patient if you can establish a daily routine they can rely on because this will help reduce confusion on their part. As much as possible, you should involve your patient with daily activities, since that will give them a sense of involvement and belonging. If you can find out the kinds of activities or hobbies which your patient used to have interest in, it would be good to repeat these activities and involve the person. Choose activities which stimulate the various senses and which involve movement. You can help your charge stay somewhat oriented by scheduling such activities as bathing, dressing, mealtimes, and bedtimes at the same time every day.
Manage problem behaviors
You can expect that personality changes may occur with your loved one or your patient over time, and this could even be expressed in the form of troublesome behaviors. For instance, they might exhibit aggressiveness, sleeping or eating difficulties, hallucinations, or a propensity for wandering and getting themselves lost. In some cases, these kinds of behavior are triggered by their stress or their frustration with trying to communicate. That means you should do whatever you can to reduce their stress level, and to improve their overall sense of well-being, so that such behaviors are minimized.
Accept changes as they occur
Keep in mind that as Alzheimer’s progresses, it will certainly cause some emotional and physical changes in your patient, and these can be very difficult to accept at times. Whenever the disease progresses to a new phase, you should be prepared to change your expectations about what your patient or loved one is capable of. When you have difficult days, try to imagine what the world must seem like to your loved one, and count your blessings at what they are still able to do. Some caregivers have found it therapeutic to maintain a daily journal which contains reflections of their daily experiences. This can be a helpful way of celebrating successes, briefly considering losses, and it can also serve as a future reminder of the last days of your loved one.