It’s one of the most puzzling and challenging diagnoses of our generation, and becoming more prevalent each day: Alzheimer’s disease. And when it hits close to home, it can quickly become overwhelming for family members struggling to understand the nuances of the disease and come up with an appropriate care plan. Although each person experiences Alzheimer’s uniquely, we’ve broken down the disease into three basic stages, with care strategies for each:
- This stage of the disease can last for several years.
- Your loved one may experience some changes in thinking and learning abilities, which may not be detectable to others without daily contact.
What you can do:
- Be a care advocate for your loved one, providing emotional support and encouragement.
- Help plan for the future:
- Discuss care setting desires (home, assisted living, hospice) and identify care providers.
- Research support groups.
- Discuss end of life care requests.
- Provide memory prompts and personal organization assistance when needed.
- Provide assistance with money management or hire a professional to assist.
- Establish a regular daily routine.
- Help your loved one to stay healthy and engaged in what he or she loves doing.
- This stage can last for many years, and an increased amount of care will be needed as the dementia progresses.
- Daily tasks such as dressing, bathing and communicating may become more difficult.
- Behavioral changes can occur, including sleep changes, physical and verbal outbursts (sometimes abusive), wandering and repetition of questions and activities.
What you can do:
- Encourage as much independence as possible, but be ready to assist when needed.
- Daily routines and structure are important.
- Enhance quality of life by doing simple activities together such as gardening or walking.
- Assist with communication efforts by speaking slowly and with simple, short sentences. Be patient in waiting for a response, as it may take some time to process your request.
- This stage of the disease may last for a few weeks to several years.
- Your loved one may have difficulty with eating, swallowing and walking.
- Oftentimes the ability to communicate with words and expression is lost.
- A vulnerability to infections, especially pneumonia is experienced.
- Incontinence is common.
- Close family members may become unidentifiable or seem like the enemy.
What you can do:
- Even though your loved one may be unable to talk, you can still connect with your loved one. Express your caring through touch, sound, sight, taste and smell.
- Assistance with eating may be necessary, adapting foods as needed for easier swallowing.
- Set a toileting schedule and provide assistance in the bathroom.
- If your loved one is bedridden or chair-bound, learn the ways to avoid pressure sores and “joint freezing” by relieving body pressure and increasing circulation.
- Take precautions to prevent infections.
- Watch for non-verbal signs that may indicate pain such as pale or flushed skin, swelling, wincing facial expressions or agitation.
Live Free Home Health Care caregivers are fully trained by our Certified Dementia Practitioner in utilizing a gentle, encouraging approach to help manage difficult Alzheimer’s behaviors such as wandering, sundowning, aggression, and more. To learn more about the home care specialists Concord, NH families trust, contact us at 603-217-0149.