Understanding and Caring for Someone With Alzheimers Disease
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease
In most cases, a person is diagnosed with AD while living at home and remains there during the earliest stages of the disease. Family members are often heavily involved in the care of their relative at this point. A home health aide may visit and assist with care and the family may use respite services as available. Other health providers besides the physician may be involved in caring for someone with Alzheimers Disease. These include the nurse, social worker, physical therapist, occupational therapist, nutritionist, clergy, and others as appropriate to the person’s situation.
As the disease progresses, challenging behaviors associated with AD become more pronounced and the family may no longer be able to provide the care that is needed. At this point, the family may explore placement into a care facility. Possible options include assisted living facilities, personal care homes, centers that specialize in the care of clients with dementia, and nursing homes.
General ways of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease
The type of support needed for caring for someone with Alzheimers Disease depends on how far the disease has advanced and also on her individual needs. Over time, she will require greater assistance with all aspects of daily living. Consult with your health care professional if you have concerns about your family member’s behavior or if you do not understand any aspect of the care plan. This section discusses general approaches to care that have been found to be helpful in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.
The person with AD will display many challenging behaviors such as wandering, agitation, and aggression. When your loved one displays challenging behaviors, consider the situation. Examine his behavior. What is happening? Try to see the behavior from his point of view. For example, repeatedly calling a relative on the phone may seem logical to the person who cannot remember any of the calls he recently made. Consider if the behavior is harmful to anyone; if not, it may be okay to ignore it.
Consider what factors (e.g. fatigue, noise) may have led up to the behavior. Is this person scared, hungry, tired, or uncomfortable? Is the environment noisy and crowded? Where possible, take steps to remove the source of anxiety. Sometimes resolving the problem is as easy as taking the person to the bathroom. At other times, you may have to try different approaches to find one that works.
Keep the mind active
Despite the progressive loss of memory, judgment, and other abilities, many persons with AD retain some interest and ability in old hobbies and skills for a period of time. The math teacher who cannot remember his own name may be able to recall the numbers to open the doors to a locked unit. The woman who loved the piano may be able to play simple tunes despite obvious progression of the disease in other areas. The devoutly religious person may be able to take part in church services or may find it comforting just to watch.
Basic factors to keep in mind when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease
- Always treat the person with respect and dignity. Treat people with AD the same way that you would like to be treated or as you would like someone to treat one of your loved ones.
- Be flexible in the care that you give. Things will often go more smoothly if you adjust your schedule to meet the needs of the person with AD.
- Do not argue, correct or confront the person. Instead, try to redirect problem behaviors into more positive forms. People with AD are generally easily distracted. For instance, if your loved one is creating a lot of noise by banging a spoon on the table at mealtime, you may be able to get him to pay attention to something else. Several possible options are:
- Remind him to use the spoon to eat the dessert.
- Replace the spoon with another item.
- Take him for a short walk.
- Keep things simple. Break complex tasks into simple steps. For example, if you want the person to sit at the kitchen table to eat, tell her to “Sit on the chair,” “Pick up the spoon,” and so on.
- Establish routines. Where possible, have these routines similar to what the person finds familiar.
- Establish reminders. It may be useful to put a picture of a toilet on the door to the bathroom as a reminder.
- Limit choices to two possible answers (e.g. the red dress or the blue one). Both answers should be acceptable.
Like any progressive disease or disorder that affects the functioning of the mind and mental processes, it can be very difficult for the person suffering from it as well as the person responsible for the care of the afflicted person.
Our Dr. Guide book: All About Alzheimers could be a helpful resource to help.