Families that serve as caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or other dementias have a lot on their plates. A great deal of knowledge, skills, and patience are required, not to mention the amount of time needed for cooking meals, cleaning up after the person, helping with daily living tasks, and visiting doctors. Because caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is a full-time job, families often look for ways to make their tasks a little easier. The following three tips will help.
1. Make Interactions With Your Loved One More Meaningful
The time you spend with your loved one is precious, but it can also quickly become frustrating for them or sad for you when your interactions
don’t go as you’d like them to. Rather than pushing your loved one to try to remember a person or an event, share pictures with them and ask them to describe what’s happening in the images. You could also try placing an object that holds special meaning for your loved one in their hand and having a conversation with them about it.
Learn how to hold discussions with your loved one on their level. If they believe they’re a certain age, or if they’re behaving as though they’re a certain age, treat them as such. When they are frightened or upset, change the subject or redirect their attention. Once you know which subjects will upset them, avoid those subjects. Avoid arguing with your loved one, correcting them, and disagreeing with them. Your loved one may become angry or agitated out of pain or confusion, and you need to do your best to stay calm and understand that you will not win an argument with them.
2. Make Your Home Safe and Comfortable
It’s better to make accommodations to ensure the safety and comfort
of your loved one with dementia at the earliest stage of the disease possible. Your loved one will adjust to the changes more successfully if they still have the mental capacity to understand why the changes need to be made. Some adjustments that will increase safety include removing clutter, area rugs, and extension cords that pose a tripping hazard. If you have fragile or valuable items that you do not want to risk being broken, put them away or store them safely.
To ensure your loved one’s comfort, rent or purchase chairs that they can easily get in and out of, such as those that raise and lower electronically. Consider getting a hospital bed or other bed that also moves to make it easier for you to help your loved one in and out of bed. It’s also helpful to create a quiet, calm room or space in the home for your loved one because noise can agitate someone who has Alzheimer’s. Consider playing your loved one’s favorite music
quietly in the space to make it more comfortable.
3. Hire Help
One thing that caregivers are not so good about is taking care of themselves. You spend so much time caring for your loved one that you often forget to take time for yourself
. It’s important that you get a mental health break so you can recharge and take better care of your loved one upon your return. Taking care of yourself is also important because you need to get a break to relieve stress. If you’re too stressed, you’ll have difficulty remaining patient and empathetic.
Taking time for yourself may require you to enlist the help of other family members. You could ask them to make meals, run errands for you, or sit with your loved one while you get your hair done or go for a massage. Sharing the responsibility of caring for your loved one is a good option when you begin to feel overwhelmed. Taking time for yourself may also require you to hire professional help.
Caregivers also find that hiring a housekeeper
is a good way to devote more time to your loved one and yourself. When you don’t have to worry about cleaning the house, you will find more time each day to do everything else that you need to do. When interviewing candidates, be clear with your expectations and your needs. You may consider hiring a housekeeper that will also help with laundry. While many caregivers are short on money, see if you can hire help even for just a few hours a week.
You can also have an occupational therapist come in to help. A dementia-trained OT can help address issues such as falls, communication deficits, and stress reactions. Too many families don’t know that Medicare covers therapy for persons with dementia
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia is a difficult, yet rewarding task. You can make caring for your loved one a little easier if you make interactions with them more meaningful, make your home safe and comfortable, and hire help.
About the Author
Faith Mason is passionate about fighting ageism. One of her missions is to connect seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. So she's developing ElderImpact
to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.