Preparing for the Road Ahead: 3 Essential Tips for Taking Care of an Alzheimer’s Patient
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging, especially for family caregivers who don’t have specialized training or experience with dementia patients. It can also be intensely rewarding, though, as many caregivers find that it deepens their bonds with their loved ones and gives them the chance to help them through their most difficult times.
The more caregivers learn about Alzheimer’s disease, the better prepared they’ll be. New caregivers and long-term caregivers looking for some extra advice can read on to find out about three helpful tips for providing better care and ensuring that everything goes as smoothly as possible.
Create a Safe Environment
Create a safe environment for the patient by avoiding extension cords, scatter rugs, and clutter and installing grab bars in important areas of the home. It’s also a good idea to find occupational therapy services in the area that can work with the patient to improve balance, coordination, and mobility. This will help to prevent falls and promote good health.
Depending on how far the patient’s disease has progressed, caregivers may also want to take fire safety precautions such as removing matches or lighters from the house and install locks on potentially dangerous substances. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia should always be supervised when they’re taking their medications or smoking cigarettes to prevent unintentional poisonings and fires.
Alzheimer’s patients can become frustrated by daily tasks. Caregivers can help to reduce that frustration by planning wisely, reducing distractions, and providing limited choices phrased as close-ended questions.
Establish a daily routine and find out when the patient is most alert. Schedule important tasks like medical appointments for a time of day when the patient is most communicative and together and expect that most tasks will take longer than usual. Allow time for plenty of breaks.
Involve the patient in making decisions in ways that aren’t overwhelming. Use visual cues and provide a reasonable number of choices when asking for help with choosing between outfits, foods, and beverages. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease are more communicative when posed choices between just two options and conversations with clear, one-step communication.
When it’s important that the patient remain focused, eliminate distractions to make it easier. Turn off the TV during conversations and minimize distractions during mealtimes.
There’s no reason for family caregivers to go it alone. Look for support from family and friends or find a dedicated support group for caretakers of dementia patients. Having people to talk to who are going through similar emotions and frustrations can reduce stress and make it easier to focus on the patient’s care.
Caregivers shouldn’t forget to take care of their own needs. They should make and keep regular doctor’s appointments and take time to pursue their own goals. Those who feel overwhelmed and don’t have support networks that can step in may want to consider respite care.
The Bottom Line
Caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s disease is difficult even under the best of circumstances but family caregivers often find that they must also confront complex emotions and extra frustrations since they are closer to their wards. With adequate preparation and a bit of help, caring for a loved one with dementia at home can be both safe and rewarding. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of external resources or to make necessary changes around the house that make it easier to provide care.