After your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, your role as their caregiver can become very involved. No doubt it will have an effect on your life, whether it is physically, emotionally or financially.
A common theme to cope with caring for your loved one with Alzheimer’s is to try to engage with him or her by listening carefully to their needs. The first goal is to try not to argue over meaningless issues. Quietly listen to the person and let him or her finish their thought; understand the emotions they are trying to convey, even when the words might not make any sense.
While it is very easy to immediately correct the person and convince them how they are wrong, this will be a lose-lose situation for everyone. The best idea is to recognize that while their brain no longer functions as it used to, the core person they used to be is still there. Approach your loved one with kindness and calmness; comfort them about whatever their fears might be and try to redirect them to another topic that interests them.
Redirection is a good practice to keep in mind for caregivers to utilize when their loved one is having issues communicating or is exhibiting challenging behaviors. There are several other things to keep in mind to help improve your relationship with your loved one and keep them safe, too.
Caring for Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease
1) Learn as much as you can about their disease. Knowing what to expect from their behavior down the road will help you recognize their symptoms and make you better able to attend to their needs.
2) Keep their home safe by simplifying it. Remove unneeded furniture, throw rugs and clutter. Use signs with simple instructions to remind them of danger or to show them where to go. Remove things that could harm them like matches or knives.
3) Plan daily activities to improve their quality of life. Provide structure and give meaning to it. Establish a routine so they can become familiar with it, and then adapt activities as their functions are lost.
4) Set realistic goals and provide cues for desired behavior. Setting goals for both you and your loved one will help set you both up for success. For example, by labeling drawers or cupboards with what they should contain, you’ll help your loved one remain more independent as they’ll be more likely to put things back in the right place.
5) Help them maintain a healthy lifestyle with exercise, proper nutrition, and socialization. Watch for signs that their eating habits are changing. Good physical health is essential for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
6) Take time for yourself. Have someone you can lean on and talk to. Remember to make sure you have time to take a step back and relax for a while. Enlist help from family members or possibly hire a professional to help out.
Remember, the most effective caregiver is someone who is well informed, prepared for what lies ahead, and asks for help when they need it.