When someone you love has Alzheimer’s or another related type of dementia, it can be challenging to know how best to care for them. Caring for someone who is struggling with their memory and everyday tasks can be a stressful, emotional journey. But, you’re not alone. In the United States, more than 65 million Americans provide care to an ill or disabled relative or friend, according to the American Psychological Association.
Caregiving can sometimes be all-consuming, and as your loved one may advance through different stages of the disease both physically and mentally, you may have to reassess and adjust the level of care that they need. That is why it is important to know what resources are available to you when and if you need them. Below is a helpful guide to assist you with making those decisions and keep you at your best while caring for your loved one with dementia.
Learn about memory loss
Dementia is an ongoing disease. Knowledge of memory loss and how it affects your loved one is imperative to making the right decisions.
On average, a person with Alzheimer’s can live 4 to 8 years after a diagnosis. Some people can live as long as 20 years, depending on the progression of the disease and other health-related factors.
Be patient with yourself and your loved one. It might take them longer to complete certain tasks such as bathing and eating. Keep responses and instructions short and simple. If necessary, repeat instructions and redirect conversations where there may be some confrontation. Give them the space to feel dignified by providing them with options. That way they can feel in control while you help them through their diagnosis.
Make a plan
While it may feel overwhelming at first, coming up with a care plan can help reduce stress levels and the uncertainty that can come with caring for someone with dementia.
Try to plan with family and if possible, with your loved one who is diagnosed so that they can be a part of their care plan. This can involve a social worker, doctor, or nurse who can help you connect to local resources to help you find services and the outside assistance you may need.
Although it’s a tough subject to discuss, this plan should include things such as financial planning, advanced healthcare preferences, and long-term care.
Know your limits
While being a caretaker can be very rewarding, if you’re feeling stressed, lonely, or frustrated, take measures to relieve some of that building tension by asking for help when you need it. This could mean asking family for help or seeking out moments to be with friends and people you connect with. Self-care is an essential aspect of caring for your loved one so that you can be at your best when making those important decisions.
Take advantage of caregiving services
In-home care can be cared for in a familiar setting. This care can be provided by family members or friends, or it can be provided via in-home care choices such as companion services and home health aides.
Adult daycare facilities: Many caretakers have jobs outside the house. Adult daycare facilities may provide a secure and busy atmosphere for their loved ones in these situations. Some facilities offer scheduled activities, transportation, and meals.
Long-term care services: Some people will require long-term care as their condition advances. This can be covered by a nursing home or assisted living facility. Both choices provide round-the-clock care and support.
Respite care: This is a temporary relief for caretakers. It gives caretakers the time to rest, travel, or make plans outside of their caretaking responsibilities. The duration can vary from one day to several weeks.
Supporting your loved one’s independence
Consider taking actions to reduce the onset of symptoms. While medication can help alleviate certain indicators, changes to one’s lifestyle can also be effective. Changing eating and sleeping habits, managing stress, and remaining mentally and socially active can improve one’s overall health and outlook.
Understanding the early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia
Dementia is a progressive disease. In its early stages, memory loss can be mild, but in the later stages, individuals may lose the ability to communicate and do normal everyday tasks.
Accept the diagnosis: It can be very difficult in the beginning to accept the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related disease for everyone involved. Allow yourself and your loved one to come to terms with their diagnoses. It takes time to process and work through your emotions and transition to a new place in life.
Your loved one may require suggestions or reminders in the initial stages to assist them in recalling appointments, remembering words or names, keeping records of prescriptions, or handling bills and money, for example, rather than simply taking over every activity to assist your loved one, preserve their freedom, attempt to work together as a team.
Allow your loved one to communicate when they need help recalling a term or agree to double-check their calculations before paying for expenses. It may help to encourage them to put reminders in a notepad or on their smartphone.
Caregiving in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia
As your loved one’s Alzheimer’s disease or dementia symptoms change, they’ll need more care. Your loved one will progressively have trouble with recollection, get disoriented in familiar places, lose the ability to drive, and cease to recognize friends and relatives. Their uncertainty and meandering speech can make talking more difficult, and they may have unsettling mood and behavior changes, as well as sleep issues.
As your loved one loses their ability to take on daily tasks, you will need to take on more duties, give more support with everyday routines, and discover methods to cope with each new problem. Balancing these duties with your other obligations needs focus, strategy, and a lot of help.
Coming to terms with the late stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia
While your loved one may not be able to show their appreciation or communicate as they once did, you can still connect with your loved one through other forms of communication. This could include making eye contact if able, holding their hand, and speaking with them in a calm and reassuring manner. You may appeal to their senses by massaging fragrant lotion into their skin, playing their favorite music, reading a meaningful book or poetry to them, or examining old pictures together, in addition to chatting.
As the caregiving demands increase, it may be time to start looking into other forms of care. Regardless of the caregiving options you decided to choose, you can find solace in the fact that the support you’ve provided gave your loved one the best quality of life as they aged.
Don’t neglect your own well-being in the process. Make time for yourself with friends and family, stay active, and seek outside help if needed. The road to caring for someone with dementia is not a linear one but with the right support, knowledge, and patience, it can become easier to manage.
If you or someone you know is looking for options while caring for their loved one who may have Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related disease, The GreenFields Continuing Care Community is here to help. Call (716) 684-3000 for more information or visit https://thegreenfields.org/skilled-nursing-respite-care/ for a list of care services we can provide.
About The GreenFields Continuing Care Community
The GreenFields Continuing Care Community provides for the physical, social, and spiritual needs of residents in a Christian environment. In addition to skilled nursing, subacute rehabilitation, and outpatient therapy at GreenField Health & Rehabilitation Center, The GreenFields offers a variety of living arrangements and support levels based on individual needs. This includes independent living apartments in GreenField Manor; assisted living apartments in GreenField Court; and memory care and enhanced assisted living in GreenField Terrace.