Long-term caregiving takes a toll and can become overwhelming. Being a caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s disease poses its own challenges as every person changes over the course of the disease. Basic activities of every day life such as eating, dressing, and showering are difficult to manage for the person with Alzheimer’s – and often become difficult for the caregiver as well.
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. It is not a normal part of aging; it can appear early in life and the most common early symptom is difficulty remembering newly learned information. There are treatments for symptoms that can slow the development of the disease, but there’s currently not a cure.
Some tips for beginning to mild memory loss include using reminder notes, repeating things, and doing things one step at a time. It is also important to stay on a routine.
When the memory loss becomes medium to severe, keep activities simple and schedule rest times. Everything will take longer than it used to, and encouragement is vital.
Tips and support for making communication easier:
- When talking to someone with Alzheimer’s, use short sentences with simple words. Be mindful of your own emotions. Stress, anger, or anxiety will shine through in your voice, and communicating is easier if you can use a gentle and calm tone.
- Minimize noise and other distractions to make it easier for the person to focus on you and what you’re saying. Radio and TV can be great, but also make communication difficult.
- Questions can be confusing. Try rephrasing them as suggestions or information. While it’s tempting to ask, “Do you need to use the bathroom?” the phrase “The bathroom is right there” might work better.
Finding Daily Routines
There are no quick fixes, but small changes in everyday life can make things easier. Find routines, and stick to them.
Getting dressed at the same time each day makes it part of the daily routine. Allow the person to do as much as possible themselves; maybe he or she can put clothes on if they’re put out in order – the same order every day.
Let the person choose clothes, but make it easy. Store clothes out of sight and let them choose between two. It is wise to pick clothes easy to get on and off, and easy to care for. Buttons, zippers, and belts can pose huge obstacles.
Remember that even as a caregiver, you have the right to take care of yourself. Doing so will give you the ability to better care for the person needing you.
You have the right to seek support from others, and you should seek help, even though the person in your care might object. There are limits to everyone’s endurance and strength, and running yourself down doesn’t help anyone.