In the case of a degenerative disorder like Alzheimer’s disease, the condition takes a toll on the caregiver as much as it does on the patient. The reasons are obvious, with memory and other cognitive functions degrading rapidly, the patient is unable to respond and react to the environment. However, this situation is a painful reality for the family members of the patient who are forced to see a loved one go from being an active individual into a state where they need constant help.
Because of this change, the caregiver bears the brunt of losing a family member, gradually yet painfully. Sometimes it takes a toll on the caregiver both physically and mentally. Here are some handy tips for a caregiver to pull through those emotionally straining moments.
Provide required assistance to the patient
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia where memory loss serves as an early symptom. ‘With the progression of the disease, one becomes more forgetful. A caregiver, who is usually an immediate family member of the patient, tends to take over all the activities of the patient, extending support and thereby providing the requisite care.
However, that isn’t the right way to provide care to someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to provide required assistance to the patient without making them solely dependent on the caregiver. The caregiver should help the patient in the kitchen, out on the roads or doing other activities, but try not to take over the patient’s daily chores and activities, as doing even mundane things keeps the brain working and engaged. It is important for Alzheimer’s patients to keep the brain working with simple tasks to slow the process of degeneration of brain cells. Being able to do a little of one’s daily activities saves the patient from depression that sets in easily when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Have multiple caregivers
Caregiving isn’t easy, more so when you know that the patient would never reciprocate the same emotions. This feeling can lead to burnout in a full-time caregiver. So it is necessary to have multiple caregivers. If there is one person in the family who is suffering from the disease, the entire family should take turns taking care of the patient, so the entire burden is not on just one person. Hence, it is important to find assisted living, employ a professional caregiver, and divide the time among family members too. This will ensure that each caregiver spends quality time with the patient that will reduce emotional burnout and promise quality care at the same time.
Work on the potential
One important aspect of caregiving for patients with Alzheimer’s is to keep up with cognitive therapies and practices at home to help their brain stay active. Crosswords and Sudoku might sound like an innovative and practical way to help keep the brain active, but if it isn’t of any interest to the patient, it probably won’t help much. Instead try enhancing old memories and reinstating the thinking process in the brain. Remember with Alzheimer’s disease what comes last goes first. So even if the patient loses memory of recent events, person and places, he will be able to recollect things from the childhood. Sit and write a memoir that will help keep the part of the brain that is still active functional for a prolonged period.
Learn to detach
While caregiving is important, emotional attachment is not. A caregiver needs to be a bit practical in their approach of caregiving. Remember the patient will never be able to reciprocate your affection and love. Try and detach yourself from your loved one emotionally. This will help one deal better with the sudden burst of agitation and irritation that a patient will display from time to time. However, it is difficult for one to detach from a loved one with all that affection and care showered on the patient 24/7. This is why it is necessary to have multiple caregivers. This will save you from an emotional attachment with the patient and help you not to expect much in return.
Have a life beyond care giving
It is true that care giving takes a toll even on the most stable and strong. The reason being, it’s very humane to yearn for love and affection in return and see a positive outcome, but the reality is far more painful. ‘It is important for a caregiver not to restructure their life around the patient alone. It becomes more hurtful and difficult. It is important for them to have a life beyond caregiving. Being social, attending family gatherings, taking time out for them is important for the caregiver too. This is what will help maintain sanity and them be more accepting towards the needs of the patient.