For over 5.7 million Americans, daily life can be a struggle to communicate, engage, and care for themselves as they cope with Alzheimer’s disease. For their more than 16.1 million caregivers, daily life can be just as much of a struggle to understand, comfort, and care for their spouse, parent, relative, or friend with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. In 2017 alone, those caregivers spent and estimated 18.4 billion hours of care, valued at over $232 billion dollars. These caregivers provide a much-needed service in our society, yet it can be very difficult to adjust to day-to-day living with the effects of Alzheimer’s, both as a patient and as a caregiver.
As a caregiver, you can look to this list to help cope with the personality and behavioral changes that can occur as the disease progresses. These changes can include:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Problems communicating, speaking and writing
- Anger with friends or family when outside of their comfort zone
These changes can be gradual or sudden, with some changes coming over time, and others appearing out of the blue. Here are a few ways to help keep yourself centered, so that you can keep on caring.
Accept Changes As They Come
There will be inevitably be changes over time, and no two cases of Alzheimer’s disease are exactly alike. Some patients have mood shifts and are easily upset by things they don’t understand or can’t control. Others may stop talking or writing as it becomes harder to bring up the right words. The most important thing to remember as a caregiver is that these changes are not only changes for you, but for the person with the disease. There’s no singular way to be supportive of behavioral changes, so no matter what you do, remember that your support means everything to the person you care for.
Schedules Help Keep Structure
Using a daily routine can be helpful with patients who have Alzheimer’s, as it creates a sense of continuity and familiarity. Many people with Alzheimer’s respond well to structured environments, with daily routines for grooming, eating, and even scheduled activities. This can be as simple as making a weekly trip to a favored park, or always eating dinner at the same time of day. This can help ease anxiety and help them engage more in their daily routine.
Help Make Communication Easier
When someone develops Alzheimer’s or other dementia, clear communication is often a very hard thing to accomplish. The disease destroys different parts of the brain, making communication through talking or writing very difficult, especially as it advances. To minimize stress, and improve your relationship, start with eye contact and a smile. Communication is largely non-verbal, meaning your body language can speak what your voice cannot. Try to give loving touches, make frequent eye contact, and smile. This can help someone feel more at peace, even if they aren’t fully aware of what you are saying.
Short-term memory loss is the most significant symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, and often it is the first sign. You will have to repeat yourself, often. Staying calm is the key, as frustration and anger will only make matters worse. When speaking to someone with dementia, always use an adult tone, and a calm, warm voice. Adults, even with dementia, want to be treated with respect.
Create A Safe Environment
In a similar way to bringing a new baby home, there are things you can do to create an Alzheimer’s safe environment for your loved one at home. For general safety, always have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors installed in or near the kitchen and in all bedrooms. To make the house safer for someone with memory problems, lock up or remove all firearms, knives, scissors, or power tools, poisons such as cleaning products or paint thinners, and poisonous plants.
To prevent injuries around the home, remove extra furniture and rugs that may be a tripping hazard. Sturdy handrails on stairways and grab bars in the bathrooms can help prevent falls. Make sure your loved one has sturdy shoes or slippers for traction and safety.
Take Time For Yourself
As a caregiver, don’t forget to schedule time for yourself. This is especially critical as your loved one becomes more dependent. Gather your friends and family together and explain that you need their help to relieve you. IF everyone takes on a little time, it can let you spend as little as an hour, or as long as you can away, which you will need at some point. It can be very beneficial to have friends and family in this role, as they are often recognized figures, which can ease anxiety and stress.
You can also look to in-home care services, or day care at an adult day center or memory care facility like Landmark Memory Care. Day care can help give you some time while also allowing your loved one a companion, or many companions, with which to spend some time.
Check these sources for more information on how to create a safe environment, clear communicating, or just some extra tips on day to day living. To learn more about day care and what it could mean for you and your loved one, contact Landmark Memory Care today!
Support Landmark Memory Care in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s
Landmark Memory Care is participating in the Boulder, Colorado Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday August 11th! If you would like to donate to the cause, or to join the Landmark Team, please follow this link to do so. Click on the “Donate” button to donate to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, or click the “Join” button to join the team.
Walk in the memory of a loved one affected by the disease, or for the possibility of a cure for future generations!