Hats off to anyone who takes care of a loved one or a family member who suffers with Alzheimer’s disease. And the same goes for hospital and care home staff. I think it must be one of the most difficult things to do – to watch another once-thriving human being slowly losing touch with reality and forgetting the names and faces of those who love them dearly. It must take a terrible toll on everyone involved.
Recently, I came across a very interesting and helpful article written by a leading expert in combating age-related memory problems and cognitive decline, Dr. Marc Micozzi. In his article he gave 8 very useful tips to help make the day-to-day life of those caring for Alzheimer’s patients a little more manageable.
I want to share Dr. Micozzi’s tips with you, and also ask that you pass them onto anyone you know who is facing the daily struggles of caring for an Alzheimer’s sufferer (doctors, nurses and care home staff included):
Take things step-by-step
Keep things simple and take things one step at a time – day-by-day, hour-by-hour. If you care for an Alzheimer’s sufferer you know that the troubles and battles of one day are more than enough to cope with. Tomorrow’s worries belong to tomorrow. Keep them there.
Give clear directions and instructions
Chunk everything down into single directions and instructions. Alzheimer’s patients don’t have the capacity to remember a list of things to do. After preparing a bath, simply say: “your bath is ready. Please step into it.” Not just “hop in” or “do you want to come for a quick wash and then get dressed?” When you’ve made them a cup of tea, say “your tea is ready. Please take the cup.”
Alzheimer’s care requires incredible patience since even simple tasks take so much longer and can often be disrupted. Remind yourself of this everyday and learn to work around it.
Give answers, don’t ask questions
Asking questions can put stress on an Alzheimer’s patients, so instead of asking a question rather provide an answer. For instance, instead of asking, “do you want to eat?” Just say, “your food is here,” while showing them to the table.
Distractions, like a noisy environment or too much visual stimulation, can overstimulate and upset Alzheimer’s patients. So, turn off the TV or radio and shut down the computer. Don’t answer the phone. If there are more than one person in the room, ask them to speak one at a time. This will help your patient or loved one not to get confused and agitated.
Planning is essential
Like all of us, Alzheimer’s patients have good parts of the day and not such good parts. Plan more complex or difficult tasks, like bathing or going to the doctor, for during the part of the day your patient or loved one is typically the most calm, cooperative and reliable.
Learn how to compromise and be flexible about routines and rules. As much as it is difficult to manage a situation where another person is in control, when you deal with a person suffering with Alzheimer’s it is essential that you can bend to their needs, otherwise the situation could potentially break down. If the person you are caring for refuses to eat what had been his or her favourite food, try something else on the menu. Or if they don’t want to bath, allow them to bath every other day. If he or she doesn’t want to engage in a certain activity, don’t force them to do it. Leave it for a little while and come back with it later.
The present is all Alzheimer’s suffers have. Learn to be fully present in the moment with them. Practicing mindfulness and meditation will help you with this. It will help you stay in the moment and perhaps even assist you finding some calm and clarity amidst everything you have to deal with.
To a healthier life,
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
“2017 Alzheimer’s Disease facts and figures,” Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org)
Forecasting the global burden of Alzheimer’s disease, Alzheimers Dement. 2007 Jul;3(3):186-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2007.04.381