If you have a parent or loved one struggling with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia you know how difficult and challenging it can be. While many find comfort and solace in moving their loved one to a secure memory care facility to help deal with these obstacles and alleviate the stress this debilitating illness can have on the whole family; a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia does not necessarily mean a person is incapable of living on their own, particularly during the early onset stages.
For some, whether it’s due to your loved one refusing to leave their home, affordability concerns or other underlying reasons, a memory care facility might not be a viable option. In either case, you will discover that in-home care for Alzheimer’s disease can be an extremely difficult endeavor. And because Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease; that means that the situation and symptoms will only become harder to deal with as time goes on.
For those of you in this difficult situation where a memory care community is not an option and have started to realize how challenging acting as caregiver can be; these tips for helping an Alzheimer’s patient at home can help make sure your loved is cared for, while maintaining their sense of dignity and independence as they try to get through this painful chapter of their lives.
Choosing The Right In-Home Care
If you have decided to bring in a third party caregiver to help care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, there is much to consider before choosing the right level of in-home care. From companion and personal care services to homemaker and skilled care; the types of in-home care and providers can vary depending on your loved one’s needs. So, making sure you do the necessary research beforehand and asking relevant questions is crucial to finding the right level of care.
Maintaining A Sense of Independence
It’s common for those with Alzheimer’s disease to become increasingly frustrated as tasks that used to be simple for them become more difficult. As a caregiver, it’s important for you to do all you can to reduce this frustration and limit these challenges. One of your main goals should be to help the person maintain their sense of independence by allowing them to do as much as they can on their own. If there are tasks or easy chores that they can handle without your help; let them do as much as possible.
Another effective means of alleviating frustration is to offer your loved one choices throughout the day. While fewer options are better, by giving them limited choices it will help them feel more independent.
Scheduling and Establishing A Routine
Patience is a virtue and that is even more relevant when it comes to dealing with someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Establishing a daily routine can help alleviate some of the confusion and frustration. Here are some scheduling tips for making the day as pleasant and stress-free as possible:
- Anticipate that tasks will take more time than they used to and try to schedule more time so they don’t feel rushed.
- Try to schedule tasks when your loved one is most attentive and at their best.
- When giving instructions, make sure they are simple and easy to follow and understand.
- Make it easier for your loved one to focus on what needs to be done by minimizing potential distractions.
Getting Ready for the Day
Getting your loved one ready for the day can be another obstacle fraught with confusion. But there are things you can do to help them feel independent and make sure everything that needs to be done, gets done.
- When helping them get dressed for example, lay out clothes in the order they get dressed to make it easier for them to do on their own.
- Look for loose clothes that are easy to put on and avoid complicated things like shoelaces or buttons that could cause frustration.
- If they only want to wear the same thing every day, having multiple sets of identical clothes can help.
- Be patient when it comes to grooming. If you can, try to brush your teeth at the same time or show them how to do it.
- Safety is paramount when it comes to shaving or putting on makeup; so make sure you are prepared with things like an electric shaver.
- Remember to reduce the water temperature to stop them from accidentally burning themselves.
Safety and Security Precautions
Safety is a top concern when it comes to caring for someone with memory impairment illnesses like Alzheimer’s or dementia. The impaired judgment and issues with problem solving commonly associated with these diseases can make them more prone to injury.
Take an example from the security offered at memory care communities and ensure that the environment is safe and keeping your loved one from harm.
Here are some ways to help keep your loved one safe around the house:
- Reduce clutter and install handrails around the house to prevent potential falls. Things like wires and carpets can result in injury so make sure they are out of the way.
- Look for electrical appliances that shut off on their own.
- Make sure they don’t have access to things that could be dangerous. Installing locks on closets or cabinets can help make sure they won’t accidentally pick things up that could put them at risk.
- Fire safety can also be a major concern; especially if your loved one smokes. Make sure matches or lighters are put away, the smoke alarms are functioning and there is an extinguisher close by just in case. When they smoke make sure this is only done under supervision.
Planning Activities You Can Do Together
Having stimulating activities planned can be important for those struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. Not only do they make your time together more pleasant but they can have a positive impact on memory. In fact, activities such as playing music your loved one is fond of, can help in triggering pleasant memories from their past.
Try to stay as active as possible and plan activities that you can do together. This can include experimenting with games you think they would enjoy or discuss current events.
Keeping Meals Simple
Meal time can be another challenging thing to deal with and source of frustration. When it comes to meal time make sure you avoid distractions and keep it as simple as possible. If necessary, remind them about chewing and swallowing their food and don’t forget to give them enough time to finish.
Caregiver Tips for Communication and Interaction
How you interact and communicate with someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia can play a major role in creating a stress-free environment and avoiding frustrations for everyone. This is especially true when it is a parent or loved one you are caring for and you want to maintain your relationship.
- Stay positive during interactions. Whether it’s body language or your tone of voice; being positive when you interact with your loved one can do wonders for their mood.
- Keep your questions simple and easy to answer. Whether it’s avoiding offering too many choices or open ended questions; make sure they can respond and you’re helping guide their answers. If they are having trouble responding you can help fill in or suggest words.
- Writing down directions that are easy to follow or breaking down what needs to be done into small steps, can help make tasks more manageable.
- Before communicating try to get their attention. Whether it’s making eye contact, avoiding detractions or addressing them by name; make sure your loved one is following and paying close attention to what you are saying.
- Be patient and try to assure your loved one as much as possible. Support and reassurance can go a long way as symptoms progress and frustration is more likely to set in.
- When speaking, use simple words and speak slowly. Whether using the same wording if they don’t understand, using a lower tone of voice or rephrasing what you’re saying; how you are saying what you want, can make a big difference in your loved one’s ability to comprehend.
- Where possible try to use visual cues and keep an eye on their body language. If they become frustrated or agitated; try to distract them, change the subject or suggest doing something else.
- Try reminiscing about things that happened in their past. While their short term memory might not be what it used to; your loved one may still fondly remember things from their past.
Considering A Secure Memory Care Community
As mentioned above, while for some, staying at home might be an option; in many cases moving your loved one to a secure memory care community is the best decision for their safety and quality of life. If caring for your loved one has become too challenging or costly; a memory care or assisted living facility with a memory care program can be the ideal solution.
Memory care communities are designed to alleviate the stress of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as well as maintaining the balance of independence and level of care necessary to make sure your loved one is comfortable, safe and happy as they go through this difficult time.
While services and programs can vary depending on the facility some of the memory care services offered in these communities include:
- Living spaces specially designed for those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
- Security features that offer peace of mind and ensure ongoing safety of residents.
- Individualized care plans uniquely suited for the resident’s needs and symptoms.
- Environments that are both secure and supportive.
- A person-centered approach focused on creating feelings of belonging and purpose.
- 24/7 assistance and qualified staff members always on site to assist whenever needed.
Alzheimer’s disease can present different symptoms for different people so make sure you are adapting to your loved one’s needs. Relax your expectations and adapt your routine to your loved one’s preferences. Trying to stay flexible when met with resistance can do a lot when it comes to reducing frustration. Remember, every individual will progress differently and as a caregiver, it’s your responsibility to adapt your approach to what they need.