If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it can be very difficult. The day to day tasks of taking care of them and keeping them safe can be exhausting and overwhelming. Add that to the emotional toll of feeling as if you are losing them to the disease and the sadness you may feel if they struggle to remember you or other family members, and you truly have a full plate. In this article, we’ll go over some of our top tips for managing those aspects of caregiving for Alzheimer’s patients.
- Create a safe environment. While this might seem like an obvious one, it’s essential to look at every aspect of the living situation your loved one is in and ensure their safety. Remove anything that poses a fall risk (scatter rugs, cords, or excess clutter) and install handrails or grab bars. Use locks or child proofing mechanisms on cabinets, drawers, or other places that store things that could be dangerous like medicine, matches or lighters, alcohol, guns, cleaning substances, and utensils and tools. Turn down your hot-water heater temperature to prevent burns. It’s also a good idea to install a carbon monoxide and smoke detector and have a fire extinguisher easily accessible.
- Schedule wisely. For dementia patients, a daily routine is very important. This, along with limiting naps, can help ensure they don’t get their days and nights confused, and it helps them to know what to expect. Take into account your loved ones personality and preferences and use that to create a routine and structure. Give yourself enough time for tasks and allow for breaks and flexibility as needed.
- Involve your loved one. Letting your loved one be involved and an active participant in as many things as possible is helpful in so many ways, both for them and for you. If they’re still able to dress themselves, let them. If they can do something simple like setting the table, let them. You can also provide choices for them each day. For example, two outfits to choose from, water or tea to drink, a walk or a TV show.
- Keep it simple. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, it’s important to keep your instructions as simple as possible. You can also keep it simple and make things easier for them by limiting distractions like the TV, especially during meal time, conversations, or during important tasks. This will help them to focus as much as they are able to.
- Take time for yourself. While it’s easy to get caught up in all the things you have to do to take care of your loved one, it’s important to take time for yourself too. Spend time not in caretaker mode whenever you can, whether it’s a few hours on a Saturday, a full night of restful sleep, or a day “off” every week. You can hire help or ask a trusted friend or family member to take over for a little while or utilize adult day care programs. Use this time to relax and decompress. Explore hobbies important to you and get rest.
- Find support. When you’re taking care of someone with a disease like Alzheimer’s, it can feel like you’re all on your own. However, there are many people who have been in your shoes or are in your shoes currently. Consider joining a support group like the one that meets at SCOA. It can help to hear and connect with others going through similar things. You can also find support in a few trusted friends or family members, and it may be helpful to see a mental health professional too.
Learn more about our Dementia Care Specialist.