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9 Useful Tips on How to Care for an Elderly with Alzheimer's
Alzheimer's disease is one of the many dreaded illnesses that trouble the elderly. It shows its ugly head usually when a person reaches the age of 60. But for some, the onset of Alzheimer's arrives earlier, happening between 30 to 50 years old.
Symptoms vary from one elderly to another, but once it's there, it's there. If a senior family member is inflicted with this kind of health challenge, the best thing that you can do is to buckle up. Arm yourself with the correct information to care for them.
It may be overwhelming initially, but once you get the hang of things, it will eventually become a mundane task for you. Patience and understanding are the much-needed qualities for situations like this. The illness is hard for the patient, but it's also hard for the caretaker.
Some should keep their family members with Alzheimer's at home for utmost family support. But for many who cannot assume being a full-time caretaker for someone with the disease, looking into memory care facilities is the best option.
But even if you choose to have a long-term care community take care of your elderly, you should still learn how the rope works. It will help you understand what the patients are going through and why they need daily care.
Here are nine tips you should keep in mind when caring for the elderly with Alzheimer's.
Establish a Daily Routine
A daily routine is essential for patients with Alzheimer's because it helps them keep a sense of familiarity in their life. Studies show that when patients have a solid daily routine, they tend to be less aggressive and agitated. This means that the caretaker will go through less stress.
A carer in a less stressful environment could provide better care for their patients, mainly because they are calmer. However, this isn't always the case. There are days when a patient is aggressive, and you are left with your patience and understanding.
You must set a particular schedule for them. Baths, exercise, feeding, and other stimulatory activities should be timed appropriately. That way, their body understands what time it is and what type of activity they should be doing by this hour.
People might have the misconception that Alzheimer's patients cannot think for themselves. Sure, they may have lost some sense of self and have some hallucinations, but that doesn't mean they cannot make choices.
Allowing the patients to choose reassures them that they still can do something for themselves. You can let them pick which to wear for the day. It's vital that they know they can still have a voice even with their condition—lucid or not.
However, the danger is when you give them too many options. It confuses them and could lead to a tantrum. Limit the choices to two-three if there is a need for one more chance.
A confused patient isn't helpful, especially if you're trying to give them the best treatment possible. If you're the carer, you would want a cooperative patient and easy to communicate with. But if they go through a difficult day, you must elevate your endurance to a higher notch.
Plan Recreational Activities
Setting recreational activities as part of their daily routine is as important as giving them their meds. These activities can help promote a healthier way of living. Their brains need to be stimulated constantly to remind them of their motor skills and some remaining cognitive skills.
Suggested activities vary from person to person. Some of them may have the energy to go outside and interact with other patients. Some have conditions that might be better to engage in indoor activities.
The main factor you should consider is scheduling the activity during the time of day when they are most lucid. Some Alzheimer's patients are brightest during the morning, while some have a horse's energy at night.
You have to carefully assess this part of the routine to impact the patients in the most optimal way.
There might also be days where they have zero energy. During such occasions, you must be able to assess whether they need the activity or not. Sometimes, all they need is to regain their strength back so that they enjoy the exercises better.
Communication is an integral part of caring for an Alzheimer's patient. It doesn't only help them remember who they are and help them sustain their sense of self—no matter how little is left of it.
Communicating with them consistently may feel overwhelming and sometimes heartbreaking, especially for the family. But you must do so to help keep a relationship. You don't want to abandon a family member with such illness because it's hard on you. Remember, it's harder on them. So let's embrace them with relief and comfort through communication even when they no longer recognize you.
When you communicate with Alzheimer's patients, you help them keep their dignity. Isn't that something worthy to be done no matter how challenging it may seem?
Provide a Balanced Diet
Like many other diseases, a balanced diet is essential to recover and regain strength. While it may not wholly help Alzheimer's patients reclaim bits and pieces of their memory, a balanced and healthy diet will help avoid or control any other illnesses that could complicate the situation.
They must stay healthy, hydrated, and physically stable to help them power through the disease. Some patients may lose weight and not have the energy to eat. However, proper care and knowledge on keeping their appetite working is a significant part of the process.
The standard Alzheimer's patient diet includes low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean protein, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. They should also be steered clear of too much salt and sugar.
Remember that most of the patients are senior and degenerative diseases are starting to show. You don't want to contribute to another cause for concern by giving them fatty, salty, and too sweet food options.
Napping can be great but can also easily affect their functions. You know what they say; too much of anything can be harmful. That is why it is recommended to limit day napping for Alzheimer's patients.
According to research from General Psychiatry, more prolonged and frequent napping by Alzheimer's patients can be associated with poor cognitive function. In contrast, short and less frequent naps that last less than 30 minutes prove to be the most helpful.
It keeps them energized for the day but also enough to send them to sleep at night. It also matters to make their bedtime consistent. It's a routine that needs to be established so that their body clock sends a reminder that it's time for bed and rest.
Probably the essential item on the list is to ensure safety for all Alzheimer's patients. Elderlies with the disease lose judgment and problem-solving skills. This makes them vulnerable to accidents and injury.
For the caretakers, it's imperative to reinforce a safety protocol for each patient, depending on the level of care they need.
If you're at home and caring for your senior family member, you might need to do some rearranging and sometimes even renovating to keep them safe. Proofing your house will not only protect them, but it can also do wonders for your peace of mind.
Accept the Situation
The most brutal truth that you have to live with is accepting the situation. It's most straightforward but the most difficult to swallow.
It can be argued that it's sometimes harder for family members to go through life when their elderly is diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The struggle is far different than being the one suffering from the disease.
But again, the situation isn't something that you have a say on. It's not like you can reverse the effect and go back in time to avoid the disease. Once it's there, it's there, and you're left with nothing to do but to face the music.
This explains why you have to learn all the tips and tricks on caring for the elderly with Alzheimer's. Even for professional caretakers, it's essential that they share empathy with the patient and the family, but only to a certain level.
Accepting the situation must come with being patient. You can't care for the elderly if you're too hot-headed or too sensitive that you would give up easily. The challenge is great, and that's saying it lightly.
But if you're patient and you fully understand what it means to care for an Alzheimer's patient, you'll know how to deal with them. It matters when you know how to be gentle and how to be firm.
When evaluating what you can do to help an elderly with Alzheimer's, the most important thing is whether you can take on the challenge.
You don't have to do this alone, either. You can look for a memory care facility that can look after your senior family member with Alzheimer's 24/7.
Providing them comfort, relief, and at least still giving them the best quality of life is a complex but fulfilling job. Don't get intimidated by the challenges and the struggles. Setting your heart to it will help you and the elderly make the situation lighter and more bearable.