“Sue” was one of our dementia clients with a daughter who was ahead of the technology curve. Five years ago, when we were caring for her mom, she had a camera in her mother’s condo to check in on her and the at-home caregivers who came in to help her. Sue’s daughter was concerned about her mother’s ability to live safely at ho
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month to help Americans unite in the fight against this chronic brain condition that progressively affects thinking, memory, and behavior. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, an overall term that describes a group of symptoms associated with mental decline severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Of the 5.4 million people in the United States with Alzheimer’s disease, an estimated 5.2 million of them are age 65 and older. Women comprise about 66 percent of all reported cases.
At the present time, Alzheimer’s has no cure, but reducing risk factors for poor cognitive health may help delay onset of the brain disease. These underlying risk conditions include high blood pressure, diabetes, stress, poor nutrition, and social withdrawal.
Alzheimer’s patients need more specialized care, but they can continue to live rewarding lives, and live in their own homes, for many years after diagnosis. Two-thirds of family caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients are women and a third of all Alzheimer’s family caregivers are age 65 and older.
The following tips can help ensure a positive Alzheimer’s caregiver experience:
- Be aware of your own emotional challenges as your loved one mentally changes. Family caregivers face their own jumble of sadness, fear, and uncertainty. Recognizing the ups and downs of dementia caregiving is essential to sustained health for those extending care.
- Rely regularly on a team of helpers including medical professionals and home healthcare providers.
- Safeguard your need for breaks. Planned respite care keeps you refreshed and ready to serve your loved one with greater patience and compassion.
- Make use of Alzheimer’s home therapies including pets, visual and creative arts (e.g., adult coloring, painting, drawing, etc.), and aromatherapy.
- Encourage your loved one to socialize by helping them participate in community, social and church events, since societal withdrawal increases the likelihood for depression in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Focus on the individual and not the disease or disability. Extending dignity and improving the quality of life is important in assisting Alzheimer’s patients. It may help to verbalize to your loved one, “This disease is not your fault, and I am here for you as we walk through this together.”
- Learn to respond rather than react. Be attuned to your loved one’s emotional state and body language. Engage in the moment and listen with empathy. Simplify communication by rephrasing responses using an even tone and cadence. Use short, simple words and sentences, and ask questions one at a time.
- Educate yourself on managing dementia behavior problems. To encourage less resistance, agitation and withdrawal, help your loved one feel as normal and familiar with the home setting as possible. Limit distractions and confusing situations. If wandering is an issue, try to understand why your loved one wants to roam (such as to hunt for an object) and restrict outside access and install safety alarms if needed.
For information on Alzheimer’s support groups, programs, and resources, contact the Alzheimer’s Association at alz.org or 1-800-272.3900, or the Alzheimer’s division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services at alzheimers.acl.gov or 1-877-696-6775.
What support and coping tips do you recommend for Alzheimer’s caregivers?
Carol Hauser, MA
November 8, 2016
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month to help Americans unite in the fight against this chronic brain condition that progressively affects thinking, memory, and behavior. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, an overall term that describes a group of symptoms associated with mental decline seve
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