Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
The first step to being able to care properly for someone with Alzheimer’s is understanding a little more about it. And remember, you aren’t alone. Nearly 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. Chances are, you haven’t worked in rehab facilities or skilled nursing facility and are looking for long term care solutions. Those solutions might be home care for now, and perhaps they will eventually evolve into rehab facility care with skilled practitioners.
We understand that caring for elderly parents or others with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be very taxing mentally, emotionally, and physically. So let’s dive in and understand a bit more about what is going on in the head of someone with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and causes problems in the brain that limit the brain’s ability to think, remember, and behave in socially acceptable ways. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the person afflicted has enough cognitive function to realize that something is wrong with their ability to think and remember. This can be extremely frustrating and often leads to outbursts of anger. Try to be patient with those afflicted with Alzheimer’s and understand that their anger is not directed at you (even though it may feel like it at times), but rather it is a pent up frustration due to the ability to recognize the inability to think correctly or remember as they feel they should. This is one of the most common reasons people seek out a rehab facility for someone with Alzheimer’s (especially as it progresses) because handling the outbursts and lack of recognition from someone you love can be emotionally devastating.
On a cellular level, the easiest way to explain what is happening is that brain nerves and cells get tangled and blocked. Because they aren’t able to effectively communicate with each other, gaps in memory and behavior occur. So what should you do if someone you love is developing Alzheimer’s? A rehab facility might be the right answer, but sometimes it is a good idea to wait for a bit. If you are looking to care at home for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, here are a few things you should know:
Things to Know when Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s
Plan Your Schedule Wisely: It is a good idea to establish a daily routine and pattern. While Alzheimer’s limits brain function, it does not stop it completely. Having a routine can help. Certain activities, such as medical appointments, are much easier when the person is alert and refreshed. Make sure to plan around these appropriately and give yourself some flexibility. Some days certain tasks will simply take a bit longer.
Involve the Affected Person: Allowing your loved one affected with Alzheimer’s to do as much as possible is an important part of caring for them. For tasks that they are able to complete, give them as much time and as little assistance as needed. For example, if you lay out the clothes for them, they may be able to dress themselves without too much help. Think of ways to involve your loved one so that they can feel like they are contributing.
Give Choice: Giving a person affected with some (but not too many) choices each day is important. For example, choosing between milk or water to drink, or asking their opinion on going out to dinner or seeing a movie. This will help keep their brain more active and keep them feeling better about their current living condition.
Give instruction step by step: If you have ever worked in a rehab facility you understand how important this is. People with Alzheimer’s understand best when one-step, clear communication is given. If there are complex tasks that need to be performed, break them down step by step.
Limit Napping: One of the most physically tiring parts of caring for someone with dementia is the fact that they need to be watched frequently to avoid injury. People who suffer from Alzheimer’s can easily get night and day reversed if they nap too frequently, which will keep you up during all hours of the night as you try to watch after them. Limiting napping can help ensure they keep a more consistent sleep schedule.