Ways to cope with the demands and responsibilities of caring for a parent with Alzheimer's disease:
Education. One of the most important things a caregiver can do is learn more about the disease. Alzheimer's disease should not be mistaken as a normal part of aging. The first warning sign is memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information repeatedly and relying on family or friends to remind them of things they used to be able to recall on their own. This is the most frightening time for the person with Alzheimer's disease. You can't take their behavior personally.
Be patient. When talking to a person with Alzheimer's disease, it may feel as if you're communicating with a child at times. Speak slower; use simple words and short sentences; make eye contact; use brief explanations; repeat instructions using the exact words each time; establish a daily routine; take them by the hand and redirect them; distract them instead of arguing; smile; give hugs and compliments and small rewards for behavior you're encouraging. These things may work, but they may not. Alzheimer's is full of unpredictable emotions or feelings that rise to the surface very quickly.
Plan. Once you know what lies ahead, it's critical to establish a financial and caregiving plan. Caregivers should make sure they know who their parent wants to put in charge of their decisions once they can no longer make them. Also consider the cost of a nursing home or assisted living facility. Medicare does not pay for nursing home care. That's a lesson that's really hard for people. Getting care in the home or placing your parent in a Alzheimer's care facility may be better determined once you understand the finances and pros and cons of each.
Build a support team. Caregivers naturally become frustrated and upset. It's hard to smile, stay relaxed and calm. That's why it's necessary to talk to family and friends about taking turns in caring for a loved one. It's important to ask for help. Alzheimer's goes on for a long time and gets worse as the disease goes on. It's surprising, but it can sneak up on people. It's important to develop a plan with family members or a health care team before the point of overwhelming exhaustion kicks in. Consider finding a caregiver support group.
Stay connected. When you're stressed beyond a point of reason, it's difficult to care for someone else or yourself. If you need help, call the Alzheimer's Association 24/7 Helpline.
For more information on Alzheimer's care for your parent, contact Spring Arbor.