Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive disease that impacts memory and other important functions of the brain. The disease accounts for up to 70% of dementia cases and is characterized by memory loss, mood swings, problems with judgment, behavioral issues, and eventually, loss of bodily function.
The neurodegeneration starts slowly, and the symptoms that appear first include mild memory loss. This may seem to be a natural result of aging; however, a visit to your primary care physician followed by standard medical testing and brain scans may reveal an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Arm Yourself with Information About Alzheimer’s
When a loved one is dealt an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, the news can be devastating, and the plan for the future immediately becomes uncertain. As a caregiver, it can be helpful to do a bit of research and plan a meeting with the patient’s primary care physician to make yourself aware of the stages of Alzheimer’s, as well as potential changes in personality, behavior, and bodily function. This will help you plan for the future, and will give your loved one an opportunity to weigh in during the early stages with their wishes for their plan of care.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be extremely challenging. It’s easy to become frustrated, and even angry, when your loved one can’t remember who you are or is having trouble performing simple tasks. Behavioral problems can complicate care further, and the degenerative nature of the disease means that things may change day to day. If you are unsure about what you can do to best support your loved one or cope with the disease yourself, set an appointment with the patient’s primary care physician to determine the best course of action. It can be helpful to remind yourself that your loved one has no control over his or her symptoms. Speak slowly, repeat questions if needed, and take a break if you feel yourself becoming frustrated or angry.
Develop a Daily Routine
A daily schedule and order of events can provide a sense of stability for an Alzheimer’s patient. Although every day may bring new challenges, attempt to maintain consistent wake times, meal times, activity schedules, and bedtimes. Open the curtains in the morning and draw them at night to use daylight to establish time of day, and involve your loved one in daily activities and conversations. Bringing an Alzheimer’s patient into a crowded, public place is generally not advised; however, social interaction with close family and friends can be beneficial. Keep in mind that although you may not be sure whether your loved one understands what the day has in store, sticking to the routine and talking about what they can expect for the day is helpful.
Above all, it’s crucial that you practice proper self-care and set up a network of support to avoid burnout. Although you may be committed to being the primary caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, the responsibilities and daily requirements can become overwhelming and exhausting. Create a system of support that includes trustworthy friends and family who can share the burden, both physically and emotionally.
If your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s, partner with his or her physician to devise a plan of care and to educate yourself about the disease and its impact. We are here to support you and your family — contact us to set an appointment today.