In Arlington and elsewhere around the country, people will be observing Alzheimer’s And Brain Awareness Month throughout the month of June, and that makes this a great time to consider some helpful tips for caring for these patients. Senior home care professionals often have patients suffering from some stage of Alzheimer’s, and that requires some special care. Alzheimer’s is a disease that can affect both memory and behavior, often leaving the afflicted person disoriented, confused, and sometimes with difficulty in speaking or swallowing. At any given time, there are approximately 6.5 million people in this country who are affected by the disease – and that means their caregivers are also affected by it. In this article, we’ll discuss some common helpful tips for providing the best care for Alzheimer’s patients.
Common Advice for Alzheimer’s Care
Here are some of the most useful and helpful tips for those who provide care to Alzheimer’s patients.
Establish a nutritious diet
Often times when caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, they will demonstrate a lack of interest in eating. That makes it especially important that you provide nutritious meals, to keep them as healthy as possible. This will help to slow down the progress of the disease and keep them better prepared to resist its ravages. A healthy diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, poultry, fish, and whole grains. You should try and minimize the servings of red meat, fried foods, sugary foods, and cheese.
Learn all about the disease
The more you can learn about Alzheimer’s and how it’s affecting your patient or loved one, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with their symptoms and behaviors. It should help you to communicate more effectively with them, and it should also allow you to deal with whatever changes in behavior they are exhibiting. There are many online resources available to learn more about the disease, and if you go with your patient to doctor appointments, you’ll have the opportunity to find out even more from their doctor.
Setup a solid routine
Routine can be extremely important to an Alzheimer’s patient, partly because they often experience short-term memory loss. When you establish a repetitive, consistent routine, it helps to overcome this memory loss to some degree. Your daily routine should be the same every day, starting with dressing, washing up, having meals, doing any kind of housework, taking medications, and even incorporating some time for exercise. If there are activities especially favored by your patient, for instance, listening to music or watching TV, these should be included at the same time every day. This gives your patient a sense of security and consistency.
Keep the patient mentally and physically active
Physical activity strengthens the muscles of the body, including the heart, and it also helps to slow down the progress of the disease. It will usually also improve your patient’s mood since exercise causes the release of ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins into the system. Staying mentally active is just as important because regular mental activity also acts to inhibit the progress of the disease. Try to interest your patient in such activities as solving puzzles, reading books, or playing games that require thought. You should also let them do as much as safely possible for themselves, such as self-grooming, dressing, bathing, etc.
Don’t overlook hygiene
Hygiene is important from a self-esteem standpoint, and it will help your patient feel good about themselves if they can maintain good hygiene by themselves. It may seem like a small thing, but when a person can wash up, brush their hair, brush their teeth, and dress appropriately, it gives them a sense of independence, and that will generally improve their mood. It’s important that you have them invested in their own care, so they don’t feel like a complete invalid.
Create a safe environment
Alzheimer’s patients are especially prone to slips and falls, so it becomes extremely necessary to safeguard them against this. Take steps in the home to reduce hazards that might cause slips and falls. There are also lots of ways you can make the home safer for them, like installing hand grips in hallways and in the shower and bathroom. Remove any small rugs that might easily slide along the floor and cause a slip. Make sure cabinet doors are latched and electrical outlets are covered somehow.
Watch out for sundowning
Sundowning is a behavior that causes the Alzheimer’s patient to become more restless and irritable in the late afternoon or evening hours. You might find your loved one or patient wandering aimlessly around the house at that time. Much of this behavior can be limited by avoiding naps and by physical exertion that tends to tire out your patient. Having a consistent bedtime will also serve to reduce the likelihood of sundowning.
Don’t let yourself get burned out
If you run yourself ragged trying to nurse an Alzheimer’s patient, it won’t do either of you any good. It can be extremely draining, attending to the needs of an Alzheimer’s patient, and you may not even be aware of just how exhausting it is until you collapse in a state of burnout. Try to rotate care among other relatives, or take advantage of respite care that gives you a break now and then. That should keep you better prepared to manage their care on a daily basis.
Be as patient as possible
Don’t get frustrated or impatient when your Alzheimer’s loved one is unable to do things as quickly as someone else might. They might also have difficulty understanding what you’re trying to convey to them, so don’t get irritated when that happens. Keep in mind that they might already be feeling embarrassed about their condition, and this might manifest itself in a display of irritation or anger. Always give them a little extra time to accomplish the next task, and be understanding if they are unable to complete the task.