Taking care of a loved one who has Alzheimer’s will definitely take some work, it is a commitment to keep your loved one healthy, happy, and safe while they face this condition. While there is no proper cure for Alzheimer’s, family members such as you can take many steps to care for that patient, none of which require a medical degree.
Senior citizens, those aged 65 and over, often face physical or neurological health problems; in fact, four in five of them contend with a chronic condition such as arthritis, osteoporosis (especially women), and heart disorders. This included dementia, too, and often Alzheimer’s. An Alzheimer’s patient with an advanced case may need to relocate to a nursing home with medical staff on hand, but more minor cases call for home care instead. Nurses and family members alike can provide this care.
Here are some tips for taking excellent care of a loved one who is struggling with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive diseases:
Talk to Them With Respect
Often, mental conditions or neurological issues may cause some misconceptions about the patient’s needs or mental acuity. On one hand, it may be frustrating for your elderly relative to be highly forgetful and need constant care, but this is no reason to snap at them or take out your frustration on them.
Verbal abuse does no one any good; instead, exercise patience (and feign it if you must), and remember that this is not their fault. Your forgetful relative is not trying to annoy you; in fact, they are experiencing hardship, and you are there to help. While providing home health care for them, be polite and patient with them, and be gentle about reminding them of anything they forgot.
Are They Comfortable?
Keeping them physically comfortable throughout the day and night is crucial. Thankfully, there are plenty of comfy clothing options for Alzhemier’s patients available. Jeans and a rough sweater aren’t exactly comfortable — for anyone. Consider adaptive clothing for seniors for easy dressing with plenty of assistance options.
Finally, perform any chores or services that your loved one is unable to do on their own. For example, you can help feed and look after their pets, tend to their home garden, go grocery shopping or run similar errands, vacuum the carpet, and repair any damaged items. Feel free to cook for them too and prepare entire meals at a time and put them in the fridge or freezer. Anytime your loved one is alone and wants to eat, they can simply heat up a meal.
Don’t Treat Them Like Children
They are not to be treated like children; an Alzheimer’s patient simply needs assistance, not a stern parental figure. This can help keep them happier, and to whatever extent possible, both of you can maintain whatever relationship you had before the condition got to this stage.
Stay In Contact with Their Primary Physician
It is wonderful that you are helping to provide some home health aide for your aging relative during their time of need, but of course, their doctor must be kept in the loop, too. Regular phone calls, emails, video chat sessions, and in-person consultations are essential so you can report any developments (or lack thereof) to your loved one’s doctor, who will know what to do if anything changes.
If a medical emergency arises during home health care services, then contact an ambulance or otherwise get your loved one to a hospital, where they may be stabilized. From there, you can update your loved one’s doctor, if the hospital staff doesn’t do it first. Depending on what happened, it may now be time for your loved one to be relocated to a nursing home with advanced medical support programs and staff on hand.
Is Their Environment Safe?
Your loved one is going to need a household that keeps them safe and makes everyday life more comfortable and convenient during the home care assistance. Indeed, you should put the “home” in “home care aid,” as in you make the environment safe and proper for your loved one.
Adopt safety measures and lock any knives or scissors in drawers or cabinets, and do the same for lighters and other flame-producing items. Whenever your loved one needs to use these items, volunteer to do the work yourself, and don’t let your loved one get their hands on these hazardous items. Also, do a thorough sweep of the house early on to check for frayed electrical cords, faulty electrical sockets, loose and exposed nails, and other cutting, piercing, or electrical hazards. Professionals can be hired if some rooms need a little repair work done, as well.
Home care also means rearranging furniture and removing tripping hazards. Clear away all items, such as electrical cords and rugs, so there is no risk of your loved one tripping on them. Also, arrange all the furniture in a logical and convenient manner, and then keep it all in place so your loved one can easily navigate throughout their home. If their bedroom is on the second floor, consider moving all their furniture and creating a bedroom on the first floor instead, so your loved one doesn’t have to climb up and down the stairs as often.
Have Fun With Them
So long as your loved one is getting proper home care to keep them safe and secure, then it is time to think about their happiness, too. An Alzheimer’s patient doesn’t have to spend all day alone; in fact, their condition may be aggravated by loneliness or boredom, and no one wants that. Now, while there is no proper cure for Alzheimer’s, studies suggest that having a strong social life and having enough mental stimulation can slow down the disease’s progress, even if no drugs are involved. This makes you 100% qualified to help fight back against Alzheimer’s, no pills or medical degree needed. Of course, this is not a total substitute for professional medical care. But still, you can help a great deal.
For one thing, give them company. An Alzheimer’s patient may be a senior citizen with few friends, and they might be a widow or widower. Loneliness is a major problem for them, unless you and the rest of your family keep in regular contact, visiting a few times per week (or even every day). Chat about anything you like and anything that’s of your loved one’s interest, and this can cheer them right up. Human beings are social animals, after all, even in their senior years. Even more importantly, this can help slow down Alzheimer’s progress.
Plan Fun Activities for Them
This sort of soft home care can be augmented with all kinds of activities and hobbies that are Alzheimer’s friendly. Some of them can be quite simple; for example, you can invite your loved one to help you fold laundry and towels, and this is a fine time to chat, too. Be sure to praise them on a job well done (or at the very least, don’t criticize their performance). Creating a memory box is also a fine idea, and in that box can go items relating to your loved one’s career, hobbies, marriage, or anything else. This is a fine time to reflect on the past. You can buy jigsaw puzzles for them to complete, and even have a custom puzzle made that has a family photo on it. The piece count shouldn’t be too challenging, though.
If your loved one is up to the challenge, then this sort of home care can extend to skill-intensive hobbies such as playing musical instruments and singing, gardening, baking, watching a movie and discussing it afterward, and taking walks. Going walking with them is one thing, but if your loved one ever goes on walks alone, have them bring along a photo ID that includes their address and your contact information. This is vital in case they get lost.
Alzheimer’s is indeed a serious condition that must be handled with care. But when you and your loved one’s doctors take all the right steps, the patient’s standard of living can be kept high, and they may enjoy a dignified and comfortable life despite their condition to whatever extent is possible. Regular home care, from cooking and rearranging the furniture to simply keeping them company, can go a long way — good luck!