Tips to manage Alzheimer’s

As a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s, you would face many trying situations. This condition only gets worse before it ends. It’s a long-term commitment that you make for the betterment of your loved one. While you are at it, here are some thoughts about how you make things easier for yourself.

Prepare for the future 

The path for caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is long and wrought with many challenges. It is best advised that one be prepared for the future. Thinking ahead gives you an opportunity to set realistic expectations. Legalities and arrangements for the future need to be taken care of. It is advisable that the patient’s opinion be sought when his mind is able to make sound decisions.

Care for yourself

Caring for an adult with Alzheimer’s can be taxing and time-consuming. It’s imperative that you take the time to care for yourself. Seek the help of family members, friends, and relatives to lighten yourself. One could very easily burn-out if they neglect to give their health priority. It is recommended that you take a break at frequent intervals. Also, exercise is an important component that keeps you going, get about 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

Managing communication changes

As the condition of Alzheimer’s progresses, the individual may find it difficult to communicate. During this phase, you need to prepare yourself to handle the communication challenges that arise. Repetition may become commonplace as the elder finds it difficult to remember what has been said a few minutes ago. Your choice of words goes a long way. For example, using close-ended questions, choosing simple words, and talking in paragraphs rather than single words or sentences.

Establish routines

Although the elder may not be able to differentiate between various times of the day, it helps to establish routines. Keep a fixed time for daily activities like waking up, meal times, rest times, and stick to it. Familiarity and predictability help the elder stay grounded. Entertain visitors, however, ensure that it is at that time of the day when the elder is comfortable. One should be watchful that the elder doesn’t get overstimulated or overwhelmed. 

Positive interactions

The interactions between the elder and you can be quite trying. You will need to ensure that your interactions with the elder are positive. You need to assure them that they are in a safe place. Focussing on the elder’s feelings rather than their actions goes a long way in maintaining a harmonious environment. If you get frustrated, find a way to vent without affecting the elder. Remember that it is futile to try to argue or reason with the elder.

Space for the elder

It is recommended that the elder have access to a safe place to walk. Ensure they are wearing comfortable and sturdy shoes so there are no accidents due to grip. It’s a good idea to provide the elder with snacks while they are walking. This is a precaution to prevent them from losing weight. Including physical activity in the elder’s routine keeps them mobile and raises their morale.

Distraction is a strategy

You may use distraction as a strategy to manage the elder’s emotions. One should keep in mind that the elder should not feel belittled. Getting the elder’s attention away from the matter that is causing distress is a quick and effective way of containing the situation. It is important that the elder is told the truth rather than vague explanations. For instance, respond to the question, ‘Where is my mother?’ with, ‘She is not here right now’’ rather than ‘Your mother died 20 years ago’.

Techniques to capture attention

You may use eye contact, smiles, gestures, touch, and other ways to connect with the elder. These subtle actions have an effect on the elders. It also helps you stay positive. Focussing on the elder’s emotions instead of their actions helps maintain a stress-free environment.

Choice of words

You need to choose simple direct ways to communicate with your elder. Refrain from saying, ‘Do you remember?’, ‘Try to remember’, ‘Did you forget?’ or ‘How could you not know that?’. These questions expect the elder to use their short-term memory. Lack of recollection could lead to frustration. Avoid using lots of pronouns, use nouns instead. Say, ‘Please sit on the yellow chair’ rather than ‘Please sit there’.

Respect the elder

Although you need to use simplified language to express your thoughts to the elder, you should not coddle them. Talking down to them or using baby-talk is offensive. When the elder is present, it is rude to talk above them. Include the elder in your decisions. Provide them with choices whenever possible.

One can cope with Alzheimer’s. You just need to be mindful of your choices and their effect on your loved one. It’s most important to remember that self-care is the prerequisite for a caregiver.  

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