Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder of the brain that affects thinking, memory, and other brain functions. According to the National Institute on Aging, an estimated 5.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease.
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, the disease can be very difficult on you as a caregiver. It can be sad and frustrating for your mother to not remember family memories. It can be scary for your grandfather to forget to eat. Despite all this, it’s entirely possible to create an enjoyable life for you and your loved one.
In honor of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, here are five tips on how to live with Alzheimer’s disease as a caregiver:
- Get Outside Help
- Let Them Lead
- Have Routines
- Take Time for Yourself
As soon as your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, or even if you think they may be developing Alzheimer’s, do research. The more you can understand the disease, the better equipped you will be to help your loved one. Not only that, but you’ll also be better equipped to make changes so you can live happily with your loved one. The National Institute on Aging is an excellent place to start learning about Alzheimer’s disease.
You may be tempted to take care of your loved one on your own when they develop Alzheimer’s disease. This isn’t a bad thing. However, it’s important to look realistically at your other responsibilities, your capability to safely take care of them, and how being a caregiver will affect your health.
Most skilled nursing communities have team members who are specially trained in memory care, and many communities have specific memory care units. To ensure your loved one and your health is taken care of, it’s important to get outside help from medical professionals.
Arguing with your loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease will only further frustrate them and you. Be willing to let things go and let your loved one lead where appropriate. It can be tempting to do everything for your loved one, but allow them to have independence where it is safe. You can also allow them to lead by giving them choices. The fewer decisions they have to make the better, but you could lay out two different outfit choices for them in the morning. You could also ask them to choose between two different activities to give them a sense of independence.
Routines are important for you and your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Having a routine reduces the amount of confusion and distress your loved one may experience. Having a routine can also help keep you calm through the difficult times. If your loved one diverges from the routine, it’s crucial that you stay flexible. Flexibility on your part will help your loved one to be happy and calm in a situation that might otherwise cause agitation.
Caregiver burnout is real. Take time for yourself, even if it’s something simple. Ask if a friend can supervise your loved one while you go grocery shopping. Take a shorter visit to the skilled nursing community your loved one is at so you can take extra time for yourself.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that your loved one is not their disease. Enjoy every moment with them. Laugh and have fun with them whenever you can, and be patient in the difficult times.