This is the 4th and final blog in our series focusing on Alzheimer’s Disease. We hope you have enjoyed educating yourself about the symptoms, stages, and treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease…and find the following strategies helpful when caring for your loved one.
Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease can have high physical, emotional, and financial costs. Becoming well-informed about the disease is one important long-term strategy. Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive brain disorder that causes memory difficulties, cognitive delays, communication problems, mood swings and personality changes. Caregivers can best meet these challenges by using creativity, flexibility, patience and compassion…and a sense of humor.
Coping Strategies for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease
- Set realistic goals:
Don’t set your expectations higher than attainable. Maybe, a successful goal is that your loved one be clean, comfortable, and well nourished. Be flexible. Symptoms and needs will change over time and goals will need to be changed with time as well.
- State your message clearly:
Realize that someone with Alzheimer’s will misinterpret verbal and non-verbal cues often, causing frustration on both ends. Always identify yourself, call your loved one by name in order to orient or get their attention, and treat them with dignity and respect, as you keep eye contact and come to their level. Other strategies include: speak slowly and with a lower pitch (rather than loud or high), repeat demands using same words, ask simple questions with yes/no answers, reduce background noise and distractions, and use simple words (less pronouns, more specific names or titles) and sentences.
- Set a positive mood for interaction:
Use body language and nonverbal cues that create respect, acceptance, and a pleasant atmosphere. Use facial expressions, tone of voice and physical touch to help convey your message and show your feelings of affection.
- Break down activities into a series of steps:
This makes many tasks much more manageable. Using visual cues and gestures can be very helpful.
- When the going gets tough, distract and redirect:
When your loved one becomes upset, try changing the subject or the environment. It is important to connect with the person on a feeling level, before you redirect. You might say, “I see you’re feeling sad—I’m sorry you’re upset. Let’s go for a walk.” Try to accommodate the behavior, rather than control it.
- Reminisce about the past:
Remembering the past is often a soothing and affirming activity. Many people with dementia may not remember what happened 45 minutes ago, but they can clearly recall their lives 45 years earlier. Watch family videos, look at old photographs, talk about past trips, share the history they remember with family members, grandchildren and friends.
- Offer a sense of control:
All of us want to feel like we’re in control of our own lives and have the capability to make our own choices. This doesn’t change when someone has dementia — even the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Offer an “illusion of control” by giving options, letting your loved one make choices within reason, thanking them for letting you help out with their care.
- Respond with affection and reassurance:
People with dementia often feel confused, anxious, and confused about reality. Avoid trying to convince them they are wrong, but rather respond with verbal and physical expressions of comfort, support and reassurance. Sometimes holding hands, touching, hugging and praise will get the person to respond when all else fails.
- Become an educated caregiver:
As the disease progresses, new caregiving skills may be necessary. The Alzheimer’s Association offers programs to help you better understand and cope with the behaviors and personality changes that often accompany Alzheimer’s.
- Take care of yourself:
Visit your doctor regularly. Watch your diet, exercise and get plenty of rest. Making sure that you stay healthy will help you be a better caregiver. Trying to do everything by yourself will leave you exhausted. Seek the support of family, friends and caregivers going through similar experiences.
Contact Luba Services, Inc. today for help with caring for your loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease.