Individuals who have Dementia and Alzheimer’s often require a caregiver to get through the day to help with sometimes even the simplest of tasks. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which means that there is an early-stage, middle-stage and late-stage of the disease. Parallel with this disease progression, there is an increase in the need for the caregiver’s involvement. As a caregiver, here are some tips to help you on a day-to-day basis during this progression.
If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia, your role in managing daily tasks for your patient will increase as the disease progresses. Find out as much as you can about the disease so that you can plan to help your patient to transition comfortably. You can read books on the subject; you can speak to your client’s doctor or even speak to other caregivers who have taken care of a similar patient.
Make Decisions Together
Try and find practical tips that can help your patient participate as much as possible and enable you to manage tasks effectively. They like to feel involved and appreciated. Allow for choices; provide a few opportunities for them to make their own choices every day. You could ask them to pick out an outfit, for example, or ask their opinion on whether they want to go for a walk or see a movie. This goes a long way in making the patient feel safe and loved, and needed.
Form a Support Network
A support network is what will take care of you on days when you are really low. Taking care of a patient with Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is not easy. It comes with long hours, sometimes difficult patients and frustrating moments. Especially as your patient’s condition gets worse, it will become a little more taxing on the caregiver, not just physically but emotionally and psychologically too. On such long days, you will need someone to reassure you or even to just listen. This could be someone who is also taking care of a dementia patient or your close friends. If the patient is a member of your family, it is even worse; make sure you have a few other family members walking the journey with you.
Check the Home for Safety
For people suffering from dementia, their judgment and problem-solving skills are impaired, constantly putting them in harm’s way. Do your best to proof the environment and promote the safety of your client. How can you do this?
- Prevent falls by removing extension cords, scatter rugs, and any clutter that would potentially trip them. Install handrails or grab bars in areas off the ground like on stairs, toilets and bathrooms.
- Install locks on cabinets to keep away any potentially dangerous items such as guns, medicine, toxic cleaning substances, alcohol, matches and lighters, and dangerous utensils and tools.
- Make sure the hot-water heater operates at the lowest possible level to reduce the chances of burns.
- Install active fire hydrants and extinguishers and check that the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors work perfectly.
Set Up a Daily Routine
When establishing a daily task plan, ensure you schedule wisely. Some tasks, like medical appointments and bathing, are easier when the person is most alert and refreshed. Prioritize such tasks. Allow some flexibility for spontaneous activities or particularly difficult days to make it less taxing on your patient. Consider your patient too. What does your patient like doing? What do they dislike doing? Try and make each day different but engaging and interesting.
Reassure Your Loved One
As time goes by, some tasks may become more difficult for your patient to do on their own. They may begin to lose control and even full use of their senses. Always reassure them by celebrating little efforts. It could be small things like buttoning a shirt, combing hair, things that were once so easy but now so difficult.
Beware of Caregiver Burnout
Taking care of a patient with dementia is a very demanding job. As the disease progresses, more and more tasks will have to be done with you making the days even longer. Coupled with stubborn and sometimes challenging patients, you may be pushed to your wits’ end. Plan for rest breaks to rejuvenate yourself and give your mind a break. Organize for someone to take over some days of the week to allow you time to take care of yourself. Keep an open mind and remain flexible as things are likely to change without warning, and you need to be ready to adjust or ease into the new normal comfortably.