Being a caregiver to an elderly person with extensive needs is challenging in any right; but, if your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, it can be especially difficult because you are also contending with a host of issues related to their mental state, from hallucinations to completely forgetting how to do the most basic of tasks. If you are new to this role, or are deep in it, and looking for helpful advice to make things easier, here are some tips for dealing with some basic duties you face daily.
Look at any forum and you will quickly see that bathing is one of the most challenging aspects of caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. There are many reasons a person may resist from thinking that they already bathed to being confused and frightened by the experience. The first and foremost best piece of advice, is to schedule this challenging task when the person is at his calmest and most placid; do it the same time every day if possible—Alzheimer’s patients respond well to routine. As you are bathing the person, give them the play-by-play of what you are doing, so she knows what to expect. Also, it is important to remember that a full-on bath or shower may not be necessary every day. A sponge bath may suffice sometimes. Fit your shower and bath with safety features, such as a shower bench and grab bars. Make sure the water is at an optimal temperature before putting your loved one in the bath or shower.
Eating is another challenge, from pickiness to lack of appetite. Serve meals in a calm environment free of distractions and excessive noise. Again, routine is best, but you have to be flexible with the changing needs of your loved one; for example, he may start sleeping in a different pattern, and you should adjust the eating schedule accordingly. Give him options, but not too many. Lack of appetite can be a major issue, so it may help to serve several smaller meals during the day, rather than trying to force three mains. Always have some snacks and other easy-to-make foods on hand in case she gets hungry between meals. While eating healthy foods is paramount, sometimes just getting some calories in take precedence, when poor appetite is a problem, which means letting him eat whatever he may feel like I the moment. Be patient during the process, and try not to rush the person.
Hallucinations and Delusions
While these things are part of the disease, it is possible some other physical issues is triggering them; so, if you notice that the person starts having hallucinations or delusions, talk to the doctor to rule out any other causes. It can be tempting to argue about the sights and sound your loved one is experiencing, and telling him it is not real, but try to just talk to the person about what she is experiencing. Changing the subject or steering him towards another activity is good, as is changing locations or getting outside. Monitor television programs, and avoid shows that have violence or other disturbing elements, since people with this disease may not be able to distinguish fiction from reality. Lastly, medications may cause hallucinations and delusions, so that is something else to discuss with your doctor.
Doctor’s visits are a major part of life for the elderly, and it can be a challenging activity for someone with this disease. There are a few things you can do, however, to make the process go a bit more smoothly. Like bathing, scheduling appointments during her most ‘’agreeable’’ period is optimal. Ask the office which times of day are the least crowded. Bring snacks and activities the person enjoys. Let the staff know about your loved one’s condition and anything they can do to make the visit easier. It may be best to not tell him about the appointment until that same day ,or even just an hour before. If possible, bring someone else with you.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about a variety of elder care topics; she enjoys the website Lift Caregiving, which provides a wide array of helpful information and resources for caregivers.