Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's diseae or a related dementia is full time job. Many caregivers work a full time job and care for their family while providing around the clock care for their loved one. It is important that caregivers take the time to educate themselves on the disease, find resources in their community to assist them in their caregiving journey and, most importantly, take the time to care for themselves.
As the disease progresses, your loved one's abilities will change. Adapting to these changes can be a hard transition for caregivers, but using the resources available in your community and online can increase your chances of a smooth transition for you and your loved ones. The Alzheimer’s Alliance offers caregiver support groups throughout our service area, view our schedule here.
Support groups are essential to caregivers, not only can you get some much needed alone time, you can also connect other caregivers. These connections can allow you to learn from other caregivers who have been in similar situations and share your experiences to help others learn. Not only are support groups a great learning tool, they also give caregivers an opportunity to bonds with others who understand the difficulties of caregiving. Support groups are also a great place to find resources on caregiving. Other caregivers and facilitators can share their experiences with community and online resources that could be helpful on your caregiving journey.
Seeking Respite Care is good idea for all caregivers. Respite refers to a day of rest, which is essential for all caregivers. Research suggests that just one day of respite care can add 23 days to the life of a caregiver. It is important to remember that as a caregiver, your health is crucial to level of care your loved one receives; if you are not healthy, you cannot provide care for your loved one. For more information on Our Place Day Respite Center click here.
Informing yourself on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is an important step on the caregiving journey. Learning about the different stages and changes your loved one will experience allows to you prepare yourself for changes in personality, abilities and behaviors. View our online resource center here.
Caregiving can be a strenuous journey, but if you seek help from those around you it can be easier for you and your loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.
Videos on Caregiving - The Alzheimer's Reading Room
Alzheimer's Repetitive Questions, Behvaior and the Role of Communication
4 Lessons I Learned about Alzheimer's Caregiving
Preparing to Care in your Home
When caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, it is very important that you take the time to prepare your home. Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias cause a number of changes in the body that can affect the safety of your loved one if certain precautions are not taken. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, those with the disease lose their ability to judge depth and distances, get lost easily or forget where they are and their behavior patterns change often resulting in mood swings. While you cannot change the progression of the disease, you can do things around your home to ensure safety. Start by evaluating your environment and targeting the areas that pose the biggest risks to your loved one. Usually these areas are the kitchen and garage or any other place with sharp items and harmful chemicals like cleaning supplies. It is best to put knives, power tools and any weapons out of sight and lock them up. It may also be a good idea to remove the knobs from your stove if your loved one could spend any unsupervised time in the kitchen, preventing them from turning on a burner and forgetting about it. Another very important step to dementia-proofing your home is to place medication in a locked drawer or cabinet. While most caregivers have a hard time convincing their loved one to take their medication, other patients may take it, forget and take it again. Many caregivers say that installing a baby monitor has helped with peace of mind knowing that their loved one is safe in their room. This is especially helpful if your loved one is up and down frequently during the night. Removing items from the floor such as rugs or magazine racks are a good way to help prevent your loved one from tripping and falling. If you do not want to remove your rugs, try applying an adhesive to the bottom to keep the edges from curling up and creating a hazard. The bathroom is one of those areas that can be a dangerous place for those with dementia. There are a couple ways to make the bathroom a safer area for your loved one, like adding grab bars to the shower and toilet area and adding a textured mat in the tub, shower and the floor to prevent slipping. Dementia proofing your home is an important first step on your caregiving journey. The Alzheimer Store is a great place to find products designed specifically for people with Alzheimer’s and related dementia and their loved ones, like fidget blankets, bed alarm systems and more! Visit their website for details.
Common Dementia Behaviors & How to react
Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease specifically, causes deterioration of the brain directly causing the affected person to lose cognition as the disease progresses. During this process, the personality of the affected person changes drastically, morphing into a person that is almost unrecognizable. The important thing to remember in these situations is that these behaviors are NOT on purpose. Your loved one is not acting out for attention, they are ill. Below is a list of common Alzheimer’s behaviors and ways to react and redirect their actions.
1. Aggression and Anger– The first step in combating aggression and anger is to identify the source. These behaviors are typically caused by physical or emotional distress. It is so important to remember that the disease causes these behaviors, your loved one is not acting out. If you cannot identify the source, try redirecting their attention to something they enjoy, like ice cream or a magazine that interests them.
2. Repetitive behaviors– the memory problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease can lead to repetitive behaviors like repeating words or actions, problems with familiar places and confusion with the passage of time. It is important to remember that correcting them will not help, instead, redirect their attention to something else. Caregiving is all about picking your battles wisely.
3. Sleeplessness – Sleeplessness and night time problems are a common occurrence in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Health professionals suggest a strict routine throughout the day to cut down on problems at night. Limited sugar and caffeine intake and preventing or limiting the time of naps during the day can attribute to a good nights rest for your loved one.
4. Wandering– People with Alzheimer’s and dementia wander for many reasons, including feeling lost and confused. Other causes can be too much stimulation in their current environment, like too much noise, curiosity and boredom, as well as side effects from medication. While it is almost impossible to cut wandering out completely, there are a few things you can do to create a safer environment. If you suspect the person is bored give them an activity or something to do, like fold towels. Childproof doorknobs or latches at the top of the door can help if wandering away from home is a problem.