How to Care for Loved One with Alzheimer’s

by Pamela Mangen, MBA, MSN, RN, PHN, PCCN-CMC, LSSGB

It is never easy to accept Alzheimer’s, whether it’s a friend or loved one, or just someone else. Although it has been around for awhile, many of us are still uncertain as to the actual effects of the disease.  Understanding the disease would help you to tailor your care for the individual and provide more effective, compassionate care.  In this blog, we want to address care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s with some suggestions we hope you find of value.

The Statistics 

How to Care for Loved One with Alzheimer’sToday over 6 million people in the US, age 65 and over, live with some form of Alzheimer’s; approximately 70% are over the age of 75.  Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, a neuro-degenerative disease. Over time, the brain shrinks.  Deterioration of brain cells causes one to lose memory, first short-term, then long-term will follow. A person with Alzheimer’s often gets confused and disoriented, making it difficult to perform daily tasks.  There is no cure, and the disease progressively gets worse over time.  There are a few medications to help slow progression and minimize symptoms, but it is usually only effective for mild cognitive symptoms and not for the advanced Alzheimer’s stage. But what if it is care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s?

Preparing for what’s to come with Alzheimer’s can help individuals live a more comfortable life that will ease challenges and frustrations when you can help them with recognition and memory abilities.   

The Alzheimer’s Organization

Helpful Suggestions

Here are some steps you can take to help them:

  • Create a memory album, filled with pictures, identifications, passages about each picture including time and dates, even momentum pieces.
  • Create notes that you can stick to each common areas that they visit around the house as a reminder of what they should do.
  • Regulate Schedule.  Routines will make it easier for them to remember and recognize with they need to do. Be sure to have ample time for tasks that will take longer since they will tend to take longer to complete.
  • How to Care for Loved One with Alzheimer’sCreate a Safe Home Environment to prevent falls and accidents.  Be sure to keep sharp, destructible, breakable, and fragile items away or out of reach.  Reorganize your furniture and home if needed to make it safe.  You may need to label rooms and create clear paths to common rooms like bedrooms, living rooms, dining areas, and bathrooms.  Be sure to unplug small appliances after each use such as toaster ovens, hair dryers, etc.  Clears areas of any cords, clutter, scatter rugs, and ensure floors are not slippery.  Lock up medications, dangerous items, poisonous and toxic household supplies that need to be kept safe.  Install additional safety equipment such as smoke can carbon monoxide detectors, cameras, grab bars, railings.
  • Involve Them with Simple Tasks such as setting the table, dressing themselves, combing their own hair, putting lotion on themselves.
  • Create Mental and Physical Activities that are not too challenging.  It is proven that any activities will stimulate your brain and mobility.  Simple activities can be playing memory games such as cards, word puzzles, and physical activities such as walking, stretching exercises.
  • Simplify Communication.  Provide clear, concise, short instructions, but engage them in meaningful conversations.  Conversations may help trigger memories.
  • Limit Distractions.  When there are too many activities within a room, it can create confusion.  Limiting the noise level with help them focus better.
  • Ensure Everything in the House Functions Well. Things such as water running appropriately, and at a temperature that won’t burn someone, functioning television, electronic toothbrushes also in good working order. Remember, Alzheimer’s individuals get frustrated easily.
  • Create a Support Network. This will help you and provide support when you need help to care for them. It is also important to have back-ups in case you cannot follow through with an activity or event.  Consistency and continuity are important for them not to get off track and create confusion.
  • Care Options

Final Thoughts on Care for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s 

How to Care for Loved One with Alzheimer’sYou need to have patience when assisting individuals with Alzheimer’s, but the care your provide and the patience you show them will go a long way for them.  Although they cannot always show their appreciation, they do appreciate the care and time you are giving them. Be alert, flexible, and accommodating!  With you and the help of family, friends, and support group, you will be able to provide the best care for your Alzheimer’s loved one or individual.

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Source: Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer’s Disease