These four tips can improve quality of life for both the patient and their caregiver
Living with Alzheimer’s is a major challenge — and not just for the millions of Americans diagnosed with the disease.
The loved ones of those affected also face subsequent difficulties. Chief among these include emotional distress, like watching a close friend or family member struggle with memory loss and confusion, or experiencing bouts of depression and irritability. Other common challenges include having to repeat conversations, track down lost items, or help perform simple tasks.
When caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, sometimes even small adjustments to his or her everyday routine can help make the disease more manageable for both the patient and the caregiver. This June, in recognition of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, we’re sharing four tips for caregivers:
Eliminate Specific Habits
Certain habits, many of which may seem trivial in nature, can actually exacerbate the effects of the disease. Learning to avoid these situations can help the day run smoother. One example is excessive napping. The Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding multiple or prolonged naps during the day to minimize the risk of getting days and nights reversed. Another habit to avoid? Television and radios playing in the background. For someone with dementia, minimizing distractions such as extraneous noise during conversations and at mealtime can help them to better focus.
Foster a Safe Environment
The memory loss and confusion that comes with Alzheimer’s can turn everyday objects into safety hazards. “Dementia impairs judgment and problem-solving skills, increasing a person’s risk of injury,” explains the Mayo Clinic. As a result, caretakers should remove tripping hazards like area rugs and electrical cords, lower the thermostat on the hot-water heater to help prevent burns, and consider putting locks on cabinets that contain medicine, alcohol, and other potentially dangerous substances. The Alzheimer’s Association also suggests using appliances with an auto shut-off feature and installing “a hidden gas valve or circuit breaker on the stove so a person with dementia cannot turn it on.”
Caregivers are often called upon to do more than perform specific tasks — they also provide invaluable patience and understanding. It may sometimes be frustrating to see a loved one struggling with simple tasks. To contain that frustration, imagine yourself in their situation. “Care starts with compassion and empathy,” writes Alzheimers.net. “People with dementia are prone to becoming confused about their whereabouts. Imagine how you would feel and want to be treated if you suddenly found yourself disoriented in an unfamiliar place.”
Don’t Set Unrealistic Expectations
Caretakers may grow frustrated if they find their loved ones aren’t responding or showing improvement, even if they have quality care. Keep in mind that there is no cure for the disease — only management strategies. Alzheimers.net suggests adopting an alternate mindset: “Success is helping to assure that the person you are caring for is as comfortable, happy and safe as possible,” it notes. “Most experienced dementia caregivers will tell you that the person they care for has good days and bad days.”
When caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, maintaining one’s own wellbeing is crucial. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a website dedicated to Alzheimer’s caregivers with tips for self-care. Some recommendations include asking others for help when needed, maintaining a healthy diet, and joining a support group for fellow caregivers. While the role of caregiver is rarely an easy one, keeping a positive attitude and managing stress can help the focus remain on what’s important – the precious time spent together.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another advanced-stage illness, Fifth Season Financial may be able to help. Our Funds for Living Program provides clients with an advance on their life insurance policy while preserving funds for beneficiaries to receive in the future. To learn more about the program, contact us today.