November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, in recognition of the 5.7 million Americans who suffer from the progressive brain disease. Alzheimer’s disease causes patients to lose their thinking, memory and social skills, and it can also be devastating for caregivers.
The Alzheimer’s Association and other groups provide these tips for improving the quality of life of someone with the disease and making their care more manageable for family and other loved ones:
The first step to understanding what an Alzheimer’s patient is going through is to better understand the disease. Learn the common behaviors caused by Alzheimer’s, including:
2. Repeating statements or questions
3. Frequently losing possessions
4. Getting lost in common places
5. Acting out of character
6. Changes in mood, including depression
Learning these behaviors can make it easier for the caregiver to understand the patient’s actions and better communicate with them. Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association and The Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center offer local support groups for caregivers to help educate them on the disease and offer emotional support and resources. These organizations can also be helpful in training caregivers on how to respond to difficult situations, such as severe outbursts and delusions.
Establish A Routine
Without a daily routine, Alzheimer’s patients easily can become confused or feel misplaced. Following a daily routine can provide the patient a sense of order and comfort.
A daily care plan for Alzheimer’s patients should include:
1. Helping them dress (if needed)
2. Planning mealtimes
3. Dispending medication (do so the same time every day)
4. Helping them with personal care/hygiene
5. Engaging in creative activities (such as listening to music, crafting)
6. Engaging in intellectual activities (puzzles, reading, playing cards)
7. Engaging in social activities (visiting family/friends)
8. Physical activity (walks together are great)
Caregivers should avoid introducing too many new activities into the patient’s life, such as taking the person on frequent trips to new places or introducing them to strangers. These new activities can cause stress and fear.
Safety-Proof The Patient’s Space
Safety is a key part of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s – whether the person is living at home or in an assisted living establishment.
Common safety protocols include:
1. Place a list of phone numbers/contacts near the telephone in case of a medical emergency
2. Install smoke alarms
3. Secure windows and doors – some Alzheimer’s patients can wander
4. Limit the patient’s access to potentially dangerous appliances (irons, cooking appliances)
5. Install handrails or lifts on stairs and seats or rails in the shower to prevent falling
6. Keep medications locked and out of reach
7. Hide the keys to any vehicles
Don’t Forget Self-Care
When it comes to caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, caregivers must not let their health take a back seat. Self-care is also important when dealing with the stresses of a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Caregivers should continue engaging in things that make them happy, such as socializing, exercising, participating in hobbies and spending time with others. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help, including family members and healthcare professionals.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s ultimately comes down to patience. And caregivers need to be patient with themselves as well.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus and in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.
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- Alzheimer's caregiving caretaker