This is a guest post by Jason Castillo.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting about 5.4 million Americans last year. The statistic includes 5.2 million individuals aged 65 and above as well as 200,000 people under age 65 with a family history or early-onset Alzheimer’s. Women are more likely to have the disease although they live longer on average. To date, there is no known treatment for Alzheimer’s, which only gets worse and ultimately leads to death.
Taking care of someone afflicted with Alzheimer’s can be a daunting task indeed; however, dealing with seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s can be even more challenging. There is tremendous pressure involved in taking care of an elderly with Alzheimer’s, affecting physical, psychological, emotional, social and financial facets of the carer’s life. In this article, we will discuss some helpful tips that can make caring for these elderly patients a bit easier.
Identify what care is needed
It is imperative that you identify what kind of difficulties the patient is experiencing, because there are facilities that don’t have the capability to provide proper care for elderly residents with Alzheimer’s, whereas others are specifically geared towards caring for them. In instances when professional help is out of the question and the loving family members elect to keep the patient at home, here are some handy tips that are meant to help the patient maintain some level of comfort and dignity as he/she increasingly becomes more dependent on you:
Make home care work
Alzheimer’s patients are known to react with agitation, frustration and even aggression when mundane tasks become difficult or virtually impossible. Try to limit these challenges and help ease the frustration.
- Come up with a regular schedule so each day becomes more predictable. Patients tend to be calm and agreeable early in the day so schedule the more difficult tasks at this time.
- Be patient as things will take a bit longer than they used to. Allot additional time to complete even simple tasks so there is no need to hurry the patient.
- Provide simple instructions and do things step-by-step.
- Limit choices so it is easier for the patient to decide. For instance, show two sets of clothing to choose from instead of providing a closet full of clothes.
- Minimize distractions when performing important tasks. Switch off the television during mealtime or when having conversations so you have the patient’s full attention.
As mentioned already, the patient’s ability to cope and function independently will gradually decline. Try to stay sensitive, flexible and adapt your schedule as needed. You may also want to lower your standards. For instance, bathing can be done every other day especially if it’s distressing for the patient. You can also try sponge baths or tub baths between showers.
Remove hazards from the home
Finally, create a safe living environment. Bear in mind that Alzheimer’s impairs judgment, thereby increasing the risk of incurring injuries. In order to keep the patient safe, take note of the following:
- Clean up and avoid any clutter such as dangling cords or cables that can cause the patient to trip and fall. It is highly recommended to install grab bars or handrails in areas like the toilet and along corridors.
- Install locks on gates as well as cabinets that may contain potentially dangerous items like guns, medicine, alcohol, toxic or hazardous materials, etc.
- Stock emergency supplies and see to it that a first-aid kit is always readily accessible.
Learn as much as you can about Alzheimer’s and take comfort from the fact that you’re not alone. If the task has become too taxing, there are online sources to facilities that are more than willing and able to take some of the burden off your shoulders.
Author Bio: Jason Castillo is a licensed physical therapist who shares a passion for caring for the elderly. He has taught Geriatrics in a major university and a number of caregiver schools, with the objective of fostering quality and passionate care for seniors. He distributes his advice and advocacy with the world via the website, topalzheimercare.com