Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible progressive brain disorder that slowly erodes memories, behaviors, and thoughts over time. According to the latest notes from the CDC, 6 million American adults have Alzheimer’s and most of them receive daily care from their family, friends, or partner. Caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s is a big task - you will have to adapt to the disease progression as it gets more intense over time. This article will guide you through 4 basic tips to help you provide care to someone with Alzheimer’s.
The bottom line: it’s not easy, you’re not alone, and we’re here to support you.
Alzheimer’s Caregiver Tip 1: Learn about Alzheimer’s
One of the first things you should do as a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is to understand the disease trajectory. Understandably, this may be hard to bring yourself to do, but it’s important. This is a progressive disease which means that you’ll face new challenges in care as time goes on. By knowing where you are today and what lies ahead, you can better prepare for challenges before they arrive.
Alzheimer’s has three main stages: mild, moderate, and severe.
In the mild stage of Alzheimer’s, people can still largely function independently. They may seem more forgetful with issues like recalling recent events, remembering the names of people they just met, or have difficulty concentrating.
In the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s, daily tasks become a bit more difficult. They may begin to lose longer term memory and struggle to recognize people close to them like family members and friends. They may wander/get lost, exhibit changes to their personality, or have trouble falling asleep.
In the severe stage of Alzheimer’s, help is needed for almost all daily tasks. They may forget things once habitual to them like how to eat, how to get dressed, the ability to sit up, or how to have a conversation. They may completely forget people close to them like family members or friends in this stage.
Note: For more in depth information about Alzheimer’s or any stage in particular, please check out the resources provided by the Alzheimer’s Association.
Alzheimer’s Caregiver Tip 2: Create a Routine
Routines help all of us to complete tasks consistently, and someone with Alzheimer’s is no exception. By creating a routine, you’ll create a more comfortable and familiar environment for daily life that has benefits for both of you.
A routine will reduce the time you spend figuring out what to do each day and alleviate some unnecessary pressure.
Be sure to include mentally stimulating activities like crafts, walking, exercising or dancing, household chores, cooking or baking, and interacting with family or friends.
Don’t feel obligated to fill every minute with an activity. Rest and relaxation is a necessary part of the schedule. Tweak the routine how you see fit to best align with the windows of alertness and restfulness your loved one exhibits naturally. This timing will be different for each person and may change over time. Your routine will work best if you continually tweak, adjust, and explore.
Alzheimer’s Caregiver Tip 3: Help them Maintain Normalcy and Safety Where Possible
As much as is possible, looking and feeling “normal” is helpful for easing the stress of Alzheimer’s.
Offer tasks that allow self-sufficiency where possible. Things like the below can help reduce the feelings of anxiety caused by the unfamiliar world around them:
Giving extra time to groom and get ready for the day.
Assisting with grooming (such as shaving or putting on lipstick).
Changing out clothing items with complicated fastenings (like shoelaces or buttons) for simpler ones (such as velcro or elastic).
Offer supportive and stable shoes to reduce the risk of slipping or falling.
Add bright colored tape to highlight windows, edges, stairs, and corners, or add “hot” and “cold” indicators to faucets/taps.
Anything you can do to keep your loved one comfortable, safe, and feeling relatively normal will help to ease the stress this disease puts on both you and your loved one.
Alzheimer’s Caregiver Tip 4: Remember to Take Care of Yourself
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is not an easy task. You may find yourself feeling increasingly alone, lost, or overwhelmed as this disease progresses.
Even if you feel you have it under control now, as time goes on, you’ll face new challenges or need to learn new skills to continue providing care. If you’re caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s in Orange County, CRC OC is here to support you. Think of us as your free local support system armed with the knowledge, training, resources, community, and experience to walk through it beside you.
Check out our free resources for Orange County caregivers by clicking here. Please give us a call at 800-543-8312 or add your email below to find out more about how we can support you.