Tips for Better Alzheimer’s Care
When the Alzheimer’s diagnosis first hits you, it can feel devastating and overwhelming. Alzheimer’s patients often feel angry and fall into the “Why Me?” syndrome, while caregivers suffer from helplessness and uncertainty about how the disease will progress. For the 5 million patients and their families, Alzheimer’s care can go on for as many as 20 years, so learning how to cope and seeking education on the matter is crucial.
Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s
The medical difficulty of Alzheimer’s is that no two patients progress at the same rate or exhibit the same Alzheimer’s symptoms. Some Alzheimer’s patients are prone to wandering off or forget that they are unable to drive a car.
Other earlier signs of Alzheimer’s include misplacing keys, forgetting names and becoming irrationally upset without remembering why. In the worst stages, the patient can no longer speak or recognize friends and family.
“Each individual is so unique, so different, there is no black and white or this is how you take care (of the patient),” says Connie Kudlacek, former director of the Alzheimer’s Association Midlands Chapter. “Instead of focusing on the negatives, we need to look at the positives and find an opportunity to continue to nurture their personality and give them an opportunity for success, even in the later stages.”
The emotional difficulty of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is the “losing and grieving while providing the care because Charlie isn’t Charlie anymore,” relates Professor Jacquelyn Frank at Ulndy’s Center For Aging & Community. She describes the feelings as “anticipatory grief,” which refers to the fear of losing someone before they’ve even died, and “ambiguous loss,” which is the discordant feeling of caring for someone who is physically alive but socially lacking. Frank highlights the importance of airing out emotions in an Alzheimer’s support group to maintain a positive attitude in the face of such isolation and hopelessness.
Create a Reduced Stress Environment
Reducing frustrations is one tactic that will help you provide effective Alzheimer care. At first you may struggle with your loved one trying to bathe or feed them, but over time you’ll get to know their natural schedule of when they are most agreeable.
Established routines can help make the day less unpredictable and more manageable for the Alzheimer’s patient and you. Limiting difficult decision-making is very helpful for the Alzheimer’s caregiver. For instance, a closet full of clothes may be intimidating, whereas a choice between two outfits may be totally do-able.
Remain Patient During Alzheimer’s care
You may sometimes feel like you’re walking on eggshells when communicating with a loved one who requires Alzheimer’s care. Frustrations can flare up tempers and it can be hard to understand the root of the problem. Sometimes Alzheimer’s patients forget words or substitute incorrect words. They can lose their train of thought; require more time deciphering your words or they may curse incessantly.
The stages of Alzheimer’s can change suddenly, without warning. You can help by remaining patient, making eye contact while listening, using visual cues and keeping your language simple, as well as avoiding criticism, interrupting and arguing.
There are many different Alzheimer’s care treatment options, depending on the severity of the illness and your budget. Many caregivers try to keep their loved one at home for as long as possible, looking into products that may safeguard them from an accident or heightened confusion. Other family members may try splitting their time with the patient so he or she is never left alone.
What are your options for help? There are businesses that specialize in home senior care that can provide assistance a few hours per/week, per/day or even overnight. There are adult daycare centers, which allow family members to continue working their normal schedules while the Alzheimer patient receives care or participates in planned activities. Lastly, there are long term care facilities that fully address the needs of Alzheimer’s patients 24/7.
- Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place for her senior research project and placed in the 98th percentile on the national exam for OB/GYN residents in the U.S..
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