According to a recent report from the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.8 million Americans over the age of 65 live with Alzheimer’s dementia. This estimate accounts for the individuals, but there are many more affected, particularly families that are involved in their caretaking. When it comes to providing care to a loved one living with Alzheimer’s, there are numerous options to choose from, whether it be working together as a family, hiring in-home care, placing them in a nursing facility, and more.
At Coastal Home Care, we want to help families and their loved ones remain comfortable and stable even while facing the challenges that health conditions like Alzheimer’s brings. Our experienced nurses are highly-trained in providing quality Alzheimer’s and dementia care, as well as providing the best caretaking services for residents throughout Wicomico County, MD for over 10 years. Here is our guide on providing care for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s:
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that first degrades one’s ability to think, learn, and recall memory. Over time, it affects basic functions like walking and eating, and will eventually cause the patient to require round-the-clock care.
While it isn’t always made clear, the difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia is that one primarily causes the other. Dementia as a term describes the overall symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, while the disease itself causes these symptoms to arise.
Unfortunately, a cure for it hasn’t been found, but a regimen of certain practices and medications can help improve symptoms for a time. We discuss such practices below.
How to Provide Proper Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care
Form a Day-To-Day Schedule
Among the first things we recommend you do is observe your loved one’s daily habits, like when they regularly wake up and the times of day they are most lucid and cooperative. Consider these, but also remember that there may often be differences one day to the next, so be prepared to adapt as well. With that in mind, form a consistent schedule you can keep with them, ensuring you can regularly care for them in the best ways when they are most comfortable for you to do so.
Learn How to Communicate
One of the most important aspects of caretaking, especially for seniors living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, is clear communication. It is important that your loved one and their caretaker have a mutual understanding and are able to discuss the patient’s needs and preferences. Some helpful things to do is:
- Use simpler word choice and short sentences to make it easier for the patient to understand.
- Maintain a calm, soothing tone.
- When talking, make sure you reduce or eliminate all distractions for them so that they can concentrate on the discussion.
Safely Maintain Hygiene
Another challenge to address is the fact that many with dementia and Alzheimer’s often have a hard time maintaining their hygiene as they begin to have a fear of water, as well as falling and slipping in the bath or shower. First and foremost, make sure that their washing facilities have safety rails and non-slip pads installed, ensuring your loved one’s safety.
Beyond that, you should communicate to them that they’ll be taking a bath or shower soon, particularly during the time of day when they are most amenable to perform activities. Make sure that the experience is comfortable for them throughout by providing a robe, towels, and slippers for when they get out of the shower or bath, as well as testing the temperature of the water before they step into it.
Between showers and baths, you can simply perform sponge baths with them, allowing them to maintain better hygiene without any fear or stress.
Provide Proper Nutrition
A well-maintained and healthy diet is especially beneficial for elderly individuals, whether they have Alzheimer’s or not. However, it can be difficult to serve or feed patients with Alzheimer’s, as they can often be forgetful of or uncooperative during meals. Some solutions that could help include:
- Creating routine mealtimes that are consistent, but flexible to adapt with their daily behaviors.
- Provide a list of meal options they can choose from to foster independence and enjoyment during the meal.
- Serve small meals throughout the day to avoid overeating while also maintaining their nutrition.
Stay Consistently Active
Every elderly individual should also remain active. In the case of your loved one having Alzheimer’s, this can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible to work through with patience and enthusiasm, especially when presenting opportunities for them to enjoy hobbies or activities they enjoy. Here’s some suggestions:
- Provide simple, brief activities that have few steps and requirements to them.
- Assist them by breaking down each step.
- Praise them as they complete their tasks, and guide them further if they start getting frustrated.
- Consider adult day services, which offer activities and social settings for seniors, along with food and transportation. This can act as both an interesting excursion and a needed respite for you or another caregiver.
Create an End-Of-Day Routine
Finally, there are numerous individuals living with Alzheimer’s who experience what is called “sundown syndrome”, where they become increasingly agitated and restless during the later part of the day and toward the evening.
In this circumstance, there are several ways you can manage your loved one’s change in mood and behavior. Primarily, you should prepare an end-of-day routine for them, ensuring they remain comfortable through the familiarity of their activities towards the end of the day.
Some practices we also recommend include ensuring they avoid stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine, and create a quiet, peaceful atmosphere by winding down you and your family’s nightly activity by shutting off the TV as well as reducing loud noises.
We also suggest you have your loved one perform an appropriate amount of exercise and general activity, as well as avoid taking naps, earlier in the day, as that will reduce the likelihood of them being restless toward the end of the day.
Coastal Home Care: Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care in Wicomico County, MD
Caring for those living with Alzheimer’s is a challenge even for those who have done so for years at a time. However, many of the difficulties such a disease brings can be eased through the strategies we’ve provided above. Additionally, you can support your caretaking resources by hiring an experienced Alzheimer’s and dementia care nurse from a recognized service within the home care industry, such as Coastal Home Care. For over ten years, our highly-trained caregivers have provided an extensive variety of home care services to senior residents and their families throughout Wicomico County, MD. We provide hospice support, post-operative care, elder care, and other services, all suited to the needs and preferences of each of our patients through our personalized care practices.
Contact us at (866) 687-7307 for more information about our services and schedule an appointment with one of our certified caregivers today.