Alzheimer’s Care: Helping Your Loved Ones Feel Safe
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is both rewarding and challenging. Here are some tips to help everyone adjust.
It is estimated that in India, over 5.3 million people live with dementia and the most common cause of it is Alzheimer’s. By 2030, that number will reach 7.6 million, as per the Dementia in India Report 2020. While there is no straightforward test to diagnose Alzheimer’s, without proper awareness, the progression of the disorder will only increase. This early intervention can come in the form of a complete evaluation that includes one’s medical history, their family’s medical history, neurological exams, cognitive tests, blood tests and brain imaging. Obtaining a diagnosis earlier can help one get the most out of treatments and let the patient decide their own future care and arrangements.
Essentially, Alzheimer’s is a ‘degenerative brain disease’ that leads to dementia symptoms. Early symptoms include having trouble remembering new information and may eventually include being unable to complete familiar tasks, problems in communication, changes in one’s mood, losing track of dates, being unable to retrace steps, and others. These changes can be distressing for family members and friends, and many of them serve as caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients. While providing this care can be rewarding, it also comes with its unique set of challenges and can be overwhelming. There are various stages to the disease as well, each of which require more intensive care than the previous, and each person will respond to these changes differently—this means a continuous reevaluation of the caregiving strategies being employed.
There are ways to learn how to respond to changes in communication and provide care, and also to know when to get additional help. It goes without saying that the healthcare practitioner in charge of the treatment should be in the loop at all times and should be made aware of all changes.
Understand their frustration
For someone who has been diagnosed, it can be alarming to suddenly be unable to perform daily tasks and to deal with the other cognitive changes. This can lead to feelings of agitation, especially against the caregiver. It’s important to find a balance between ensuring safety and allowing a certain amount of independence. Depending on the stage your loved one is in, try and determine what activities they can carry out themselves, such as dressing or bathing—this will vary from person to person. This goes hand in hand with creating a safe environment for ensuring these activities can be carried out. See if there are any fall hazards like cords or throw rugs and ascertain the need for handrails or grab bars. Assess what tasks require supervision but make sure you’re including the person with Alzheimer’s in the decision-making process and make the care plan together. Enabling them to remain independent requires strong communication skills. Understand when to step in to provide cues to help them with their memory, for instance to keep appointments, remember names, track medicines, etc. Keep potentially dangerous things locked and out of reach to avoid any possibility of self injury.
Make communication easier
There will be certain changes in the way your loved one communicates, but you can help them adjust and make it easier. Maintain eye contact during conversations and be sure to call them by their name. If you’re trying to help them with a task, keep your guidance simple and break it into steps; in the same vein, be specific when asking them to do something and give them time to respond. Reduce external distractions, like the television, to make it easier for them to focus (like during meals).
Following a predictable routine can reduce the risk of wandering, which is a common fear for those with Alzheimer’s. Along with this, keep doors locked, especially if there have been instances of wandering. You could try and place a lock above or below eye level. Alert those who live close by as well, so that they can be aware that wandering is a possibility and will be able to keep an eye out.
Along with reading their body language to gauge how they’re feeling, try and recognise how you, or the caregiver, are doing. Being the caregiver for one with Alzheimer’s can change one’s life, so it’s important to take care of oneself as well. Take note of changes in your mood and sleep pattern, and raise them with your healthcare practitioner who may direct you to a mental health specialist. Try and take time out for yourself, this could be in the form of a short vacation or doing activities that you enjoy.
Do activities with them
Try and allot some time to doing activities with your loved one. It can improve their mood, reduce aggressive behaviour and also improve quality of life. There are various safe activities that can be done such as gardening, painting, walking, working on a puzzle, exercising, cooking or reading a book. Of course, it entirely depends on your loved one’s comfort level for each one, so allow for modifications when required and adjust the pace accordingly.
At Seva At Home, we produce a wealth of free health information to help elders live healthier, happier lives. This has been produced by independent research carried out by the Seva At Home team. This information is not a replacement for medical advice. Please consult your physician for relevant medical diagnosis and advice.
To learn more about our home care services in India, contact our caregiving team today at +1 (603) 718-4828 if you are based in North America, or at 1800-120-800-003 if you are based in India.