It is hard to understand what someone living with Alzheimer’s disease is feeling because you haven’t been there before.
For them, every day is different from the previous day, sometimes the symptoms are worse, and they feel very frustrated.
As a caregiver, it might be very devastating too. Having to accept the way your loved one is turning out and still care for them is not easy.
This is why we prepared this simple guide for you to help make your task as a caregiver easier.
How to Communicate with Your Loved One
A patient of Alzheimer’s disease may struggle to understand what you are telling them or putting together the words to explain what they are feeling or what they need.
To improve your quality of communication:
- When you are talking to your loved one, switch off the television, radio and any other device. This will concentrate their focus on what you are telling them.
- Explain everything to them with simple words that are easy to understand and use short sentences. Try to match the pace of their talking speed for them to understand.
- It might take time for them to deliver a point, and you may feel the need to interrupt to figure out what they are saying. Don’t do that, be patient, and wait for their response.
- Before addressing them, call them by name to get their attention
- If Alzheimer’s patient is having difficulty finding a word, remind them with love and respect.
- Try to frame instructions and questions positively to avoid upsetting your loved one
- Although they may behave differently, Alzheimer’s patients are still adults; don’t treat them like children.
How to Deal with Incontinence
As the disease progresses, the patient may not be able to control their bowel movements and their bladder. This can be very frustrating to the seniors and challenging to the caregiver. Consult your doctor because it may be caused by physical illness.
Here are some tips for you to help control the situation;
- Have a routine of using the bathroom and follow it. This may be after every meal, or after every three hours. Ensure they visit the bathroom even before they ask.
- Act fast when you see them restless, pulling their clothes or any other signs that they may require to use the bathroom.
- To avoid night accidents, reduce their fluid intake before going to bed.
- If you are having a trip together, research and know where the bathrooms are, also, see that they wear clothes that are easy to unzip. It is wise to carry extra clothings just in case of an accident.
- Lastly, don’t be annoyed when an accident occurs, be calm about it, and respond with love.
What do I do when My Loved One has Hallucinations & Delusions?
At some point, some Alzheimer’s patients begin suffering from delusions and hallucinations. Hallucinating is when an individual is smelling, seeing, or tasting something that is not there.
Delusions are beliefs that a person believes that you cannot dissuade them from believing.
Here is how to handle the two issues;
- Sometimes delusions and hallucinations are a sign of physical illness, ensure you mention it to your doctor.
- Don’t try to explain to the patient that what they believe or see is not real. Instead, react to what they are feeling, comfort, and assure them of protection if they are scared. Distract them with a different activity. Moving to another room can be helpful too.
- A patient of Alzheimer’s disease may not be able to differentiate what is real and what is not real. It is, therefore, critical that you switch off television stations airing violent signs and horror movies.
- Ensure they don’t access anything they can use to hurt themselves or people around them.
How to Cope with Your Loved One’s Outbursts
“Meltdowns” are normal to Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients. This is hard because you were used to your parent, for instance, being calm and in control. The sudden change in behavior can, therefore, be very disturbing.
The worst part is when they complain and use foul words that you never had them use before. In such incidences understand that it is just the anger and fear in them manifesting through their actions.
Do not freak out or let yourself be annoyed. Instead, be calm and listen to them. This may help you figure out why they are feeling the way they do, and next time, you may be able to contain the situation. You may also learn how to prevent future outbursts.
What to Do About Wandering of an Alzheimer’s Patient
The most important task as a caregiver is to ensure that your loved one is safe. Sometimes Alzheimer’s patients will wander from home or their facilities.
Knowing how to limit wandering can help ensure they don’t get lost. Here are some tips;
- As much as you may be careful, sometimes your loved one may still find a way to slip away. Ensure they have an identity bracelet or medication bracelet. This will help others know how to help when they see them.
- If there is an Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program, enroll your loved one. Informing neighbors and authorities on the condition of the patient can also be helpful.
- Visit the nearest police post in your area and see whether there is a department to locate wandering individuals.
- Be sure to always have current photos and videos of the patient to provide to the police with the search just in case they get lost.
- Add an extra lock on the top or bottom of the door; if they can still open the lock because it is familiar, a new latch may solve the problem.
- Keep anything that may cause any dangers in the house or outside the house away.
How to Help Alzheimer’s Patients with Bathing, Dressing & Eating
This may seem like basics in your life, but they may pose a big challenge to a person living with Alzheimer’s. Here is how to go about the three;
Some Alzheimer patients are comfortable with bathing, while to some, it’s a frightening and confusing situation. Planning can help reduce fear, making it easier for both of you.
Observe the time of the day when your loved one is most calm and schedule the bath during these times, and ensure you establish a routine.
Acknowledge the fact that bathing is scary and uncomfortable to your loved one and treat them with respect and understanding.
- Explain what you are going to do during the bath, step-by-step, and let them participate as much as possible.
- Be careful with the temperatures before the bath. Ensure it is warm enough to take a bath, and test the water before the bath. Keep extra robes and towels nearby to ensure there is no exposure to cold at any point.
- Ensure safety during the bath by use of a bench shower, non-sliding mats, and other necessary precautions. Do not at any time, leave them alone in the bathroom.
- Consider a sponge bath. If the baths are too scary for your loved one, they don’t have to happen every day. You can use sponge baths in between the baths & showers.
Problems that Alzheimer’s patients struggle with when it comes to dressing is deciding what to wear and removing clothes with buttons and zippers. To reduce these challenges;
- Dress them up every day at the same time, so that they get used to it as part of their routine.
- Encourage your loved one to participate in dressing up themselves. See that there is enough time for all this to avoid any rush.
- Let your loved one choose from a limited selection of clothes, and if you notice a certain clothing excites them, buy several identical ones for them.
- Arrange the clothes starting with the one they should begin to wear to the last one, to make it easier for them.
- Give them instructions on how to wear clothes in simple steps if they need help.
- Choose clothes that are easy to take care of. Clothes with elastic waists are better compared to ones with zippers and buttons.
Some Alzheimer patients want to eat all the time, while others do not want to eat at all. You, therefore, need to help them see they feed healthily.
Here are some tips to accomplish this;
- View mealtimes as a time to interact with your loved one. Don’t rush them.
- Limit noise and other unnecessary distractions during the meal times to give them a calm session.
- Have a fixed meal time but be flexible should they start experiencing any changes.
- Give the patient a limited number of food choices. Additionally, see that their food is colorful and has an appealing texture.
- Give them food in small portions spread all over the day. Make sure healthy snacks and drinks are available.
- Use dishes that are easy for your loved one. For instance, instead of a plate, you can use a bowl. Similarly, you can serve them with cups with lids or use straws, to make their drinking easy.
- Ensure they are not dehydrated by ensuring they drink healthy fluids throughout the day. As time goes by, be aware of the increased chances of choking.
- Ensure you take your loved one for regular dental check-ups to keep the mouth and teeth healthy.
How to Establish Healthy Sleeping Patterns
Many senior parents have problems with sleeping. Some Alzheimer patients have issues with the approaching of night and sunset.
Preparing them for sleep in advance may make it easier for them;
- Encourage them to do a simple exercise and avoid long day naps. Short naps to relax them are, however, recommended to ensure they are not restless in late afternoons.
- Schedule heavy duties like bathing and family meals earlier in the day
- Dim the lights, eliminate noise, play soothing music, or any other thing that may help your loved one relax and sleep.
- Developing a sleeping routine can also help in solving the problem.
- Discourage consumption of drinks rich in caffeine during the day.
- If the darkness is too scary, use night lights in the hall, bedroom, and bathroom.
Living with a patient of Alzheimer’s is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be frustrating. It is sad seeing the person you once loved and depended on so different.
However, understanding what they feel and why they behave the way they do can be very helpful.
Learn everything there is to know about Alzheimer’s disease to know what is going on in the mind of your loved one.
It will also give you an idea on how to handle them best. Remember the only way you can make their life easier is reasoning along their lines.
Ensure their environment is safe from any objects that may cause them harm. Lastly, maintain proper hygiene, healthy sleeping habits, and observe their diet.