Being a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is challenging. It’s an emotional roller coaster that is also physically and mentally taxing. Within the earliest stages, many individuals are often still fairly independent. It isn’t until the mid-to-late stages where behaviors and changes in personality become challenging. If you are currently struggling to deal with changes related to Alzheimer’s, know that you are not alone.
Although you may feel overwhelmed, there are strategies you can take to improve your loved one’s quality of life and support your own mental health. Perhaps you’re on the other side of the coin and have just recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. If this is the case, you’re probably wondering, what now? Here are a few tips to make life easier when dealing with Alzheimer’s.
For Those Who Have Been Diagnosed
Like any newly diagnosed disease, you will be wondering how to deal with your emerging symptoms and how you can adjust. It will be important to address the range of emotions you’re experiencing first. From anger to denial, sadness to fear, it’s important to identify these emotions so that you can properly deal with them.
This is especially true when symptoms of depression emerge, as you’ll want to address your mental health. How do you do this? Well, you can try a combination of strategies in order to effectively work through your feelings. One way many individuals release unwanted anger or sadness is through writing. A journal can be a great way to express yourself and what you’re going through.
You can also speak to your loved one, comforting one another. Alzheimer’s is a family disease, as family and friends also struggle with a new diagnosis. If you’re looking for additional support, there are plenty of Alzheimer’s support groups, both in-person and online. Ask questions, voice your thoughts, and just reach out if you’re in need.
Remember, it’s normal to grieve for a period of time. However, if this grieving period continues for weeks, you may want to see your doctor to speak about your options in order to improve your overall well-being and quality of life. Just because you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s does not mean your life is over. Continue to engage in activities you enjoy and stay socially engaged.
If You’re Caring For a Loved One
Within the early stages, your loved one may still be going to work and continue to be fairly independent. At this point, your main role will be providing support and helping them plan for the future. You may also need to help with various daily tasks, such as paying bills or setting reminders.
Even though it will be tough to discuss, planning for the future will be important at this stage. Organizing plans for care, as well as financial and legal arrangements is critical. This ensures that your loved one is involved in terms of their wishes regarding future decisions. You should also encourage them to continue staying engaged while they follow a healthy lifestyle.
As your loved one’s condition progresses, symptoms will become more severe. Their reduced ability to communicate and care for themselves can be stressful for those involved. At this point, your role will be to preserve their quality of life and ensure their safety.
Within the advanced stages, your loved one’s life will be experienced through their senses. Whether you’re flipping through old photographs, enjoying a cup of tea outside together, or playing their favourite music, this can be very positive for Alzheimer’s patients.
It will be your job to ensure they’re consuming enough food and liquids, helping them stay nourished. Since swallowing can also be challenging, it’s important to be conscious of the foods you’re giving them. If needed, assist them with feeding, otherwise encourage them to eat on their own.
If you are struggling to deal with issues regarding sundowning, potential infections, or pain levels, please speak with their doctor. Also, you need to ensure that you care for yourself. Caregiver burnout is common and if you fall ill, you will not be able to care for your loved one or yourself. Ask for help and seek support when needed.
Alz.org. (2015). Just Diagnosed. Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved from http://www.alz.org/i-have-alz/just-diagnosed.asp
Alz.org. (2015). Late-Stage Caregiving. Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved from http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-late-end-stage-caregiving.asp