Your Basic Guide to Alzheimer’s Care
Here’s an alarming statistic: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 5.7 million adults living in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease. Sadly, this is in 2016 alone. Statistics also show that many people with Alzheimer’s receive care and assistance from family members and close friends.
Alzheimer’s home care is quite common, with at least 32% of caregivers providing care at home for five or more years. Understandably, the comforts of being in a familiar environment can be highly beneficial for patients. However, it is likely that caring for them can also become more challenging as they decline.
Alzheimer’s Care: Your Basic Guide
There are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to Alzheimer’s care. After all, each day can bring unexpected behaviors, changes in functional abilities, and new challenges. That said, caregivers often devise specific strategies throughout the patient’s illness to suit their needs.
If you are a caregiver looking after an Alzheimer’s patient or a family member looking after a loved one with Alzheimer’s, below are some of the basic tips you need to keep in mind:
Create a daily routine.
Creating a daily sequence of activities and tasks is as reassuring as providing a familiar home environment for Alzheimer’s patients. A daily routine can also help ensure they stay oriented and focused. Before creating a daily routine for the patient, observe their daily routines first and look for patterns in their behaviors and mood.
The information you will gather can help you figure out what to expect and optimize the care plan you will create. For instance, if they are more cooperative and less confused in the morning, ensuring the routine you create will make the most of those lucid moments can help ensure the rest of the day goes smoothly.
Learn Alzheimer’s communication tips.
Communicating with a patient with Alzheimer’s can be challenging. Without clear communication, both caregiver and patient can feel misunderstood and frustrated. Below are some of the ways you can improve interactions with Alzheimer’s patients and facilitate daily tasks better:
- Use simple words and short sentences. Make sure your voice is gentle and calm.
- Speak clearly and slowly.
- Respect them at all times. Don’t speak about them as if they are not around.
- Keep background noise and distractions to a minimum so they can focus and process what you are saying.
- Don’t interrupt them and give them ample time to respond.
- If you can’t understand what they are saying, look for nonverbal cues.
- Learn to interpret descriptions, substitutions, and gestures.
- When possible, offer them choices rather than asking them open-ended questions.
Adapt activities of daily living (ADLs).
Activities of daily living are the basic personal care tasks that people can do independently. Unfortunately, these basic personal care tasks can become increasingly difficult for Alzheimer’s patients as their functional abilities decline further. Understanding the condition’s impact on ADL can help ensure your patients can complete them with their dignity intact.
Encourage socialization and give them engaging activities to partake in.
Incorporate hobbies and activities that match the patient’s abilities and interests into their daily care plan. Generally, building on their current skills is easier than teaching them something new.
- Help them get started by breaking down activities into simple and small steps.
- Watch for signs of frustration or agitation. As soon as they become agitated or irritated, redirect their attention or help them gently.
- To help maintain their functional skills, make good use of their time, and enhance their feelings of self-control, include them in the entire activity process. For example, allow them to help with the food preparation or ask them to set the table during mealtime.
Research Alzheimer’s behaviors and learn how to manage them.
Many patients with Alzheimer’s can become irritable, agitated, and restless in the late afternoons and evenings. This condition is known as sundown syndrome, sundowners, or sundowning. Below are some of the ways you can manage mood and behavior changes when they occur:
- Encourage them to engage in exercise and other physically demanding activities earlier in the day. This can help improve their sleep quality. Move stressful and stimulating activities like bathing in the morning.
- Limit the naps they take during the day. However, you also need to ensure that they are getting adequate rest. Fatigue can exacerbate sundowning and increase late afternoon restlessness and agitation.
- Ensure the evenings are quiet and peaceful by limiting distractions and other family activities. Eliminate loud noises and play soothing music instead.
- Ensure the house stays well lit, as darkness can sometimes trigger pacing, fear, and other sundowning behaviors.
Improve safety at home.
You need to see your home through new eyes to identify and correct any hazards. Creating a safe home environment is recommended to avoid stressful and dangerous situations. Begin by assessing the safety of every room in the house. An occupational therapist or aging in place specialist can also help.
- Remove locks on bedroom and bathroom doors so they don’t accidentally lock themselves in.
- Label all medications and keep them in a medication box or locked cabinet.
- Ensure that scissors, matches, knives, guns, lighters, power tools, and other potentially dangerous items are out of reach and secured safely.
- Ensure the house is free of clutter and remove throw rugs and other items that might cause them to trip or fall.
Alzheimer’s care can be very demanding and emotionally draining. Looking after a patient or a loved one with Alzheimer’s is a huge decision that can affect all aspects of your life. Make sure you do your research to know how to navigate this challenging task accordingly so you can make life easy for you and the patient you are looking after.