Caring for Family Members with Alzheimer’s

 
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Living with someone who has Alzheimer’s is far from easy, but when you’re the main caregiver, life can feel downright impossible sometimes. Here’s a quick guide on how to alleviate stress in different areas.

Bathing

Prepare. Bathing can be a traumatic time for some people and the more you can do to make your family member feel at ease, the easier the process will be. Also remember to talk to them from start to finish, letting them take on as much as they’re able to and want to. Lastly, establish a routine when it comes to bathing and choose a time when your family member is calm and agreeable.

Eating

Take care when it comes to feeding your family member, because frustration can easily set in- and so can the desire to force-feed to make sure they get their nutritional intake. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, you’ll be facing a double-edged problem: trying to feed them in more and smaller portions during the day for ease of feeding, and your family member eating on their own during the day and forgetting. And in the later stages, you’ll be on the lookout for choking, swallowing problems, and maintaining good oral health.

Incontinence

With the vast majority of Alzheimer’s patients who live long enough, incontinence is a matter of “when”, not “if”. To cut down on problems, take your family member to the bathroom every three hours during the day, watch them for signs in the meantime, and avoid giving them fluids – especially caffeine – around bedtime. When you go out in public, always do a quick survey to see where the closest restrooms are, bring along a spare change of clothing, and make sure your family member is wearing easy-to-get-out-of clothing.

Wandering

Chances are, if you’re caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s, you’ve either already experienced them wandering off or you’ve heard a story of someone who has. And while it also may not be something you can wholly prevent (just think of how children manage to escape when you turn away for only a few seconds), you can minimize it. Make your family member easy to identify by equipping them with identification or a medical bracelet, enrol them in a Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program, notify neighbors your family member may wander, keep doors and windows locked, and install a chime system whenever doors are opened.

Exercise and Activities

Keeping your family member active and engaged is not only a huge way to stave off some effects of Alzheimer’s, but to also give you a break from 24/7 caregiving. One option is to have them visit at a community center to take part in Alzheimer’s-centered activities, or have a specially trained professional visit your home. Try to get outside and active as much as possible, but take weather and physical ability into account. Sometimes, a walk around the block can be the only thing on the menu, and sometimes something more strenuous like a game of tennis or a pool visit is possible.

Whatever difficulties you face with your Alzheimer’s family member, remember that you’re not the only one and there are plenty of resources available, such as the National Institute on Aging, Help Guide, or Alzheimer’s Association.