Alzheimer’s disease is a common and progressive brain disorder that can affect memory, language, thinking and behavior. As the number of people living with the disease increases, so do the numbers of those needing to care for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s. This article will help you understand how to support loved ones with Alzheimer’s, as well as tips for caregivers themselves on caring for loved ones who are in these types of relationships.
Alzheimer’s Disease: An Overview
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disorder that affects memory and thinking. It is the most common form of dementia, a group of disorders that damage brain function. Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the build-up of amyloid plaques and Nero fibrillary tangles in the brain. These deposits are made up of proteins and lipids that can kill nerve cells.
Alzheimer’s disease usually begins with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is a stage before Alzheimer’s disease develops. MCI is characterized by problems with memory, thinking, and language. About half of people with MCI will progress to Alzheimer’s disease within five years.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are treatments that can help prolong life and improve symptoms. Treatment focuses on preventing or slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease by reducing or removing the amyloid plaque deposits from the brain, improving blood flow to the brain, and stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
There are a few early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease that can be difficult to ignore. These include changes in mood, behavior, and thinking; problems with memory; and loss of language skills.
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, patients may experience more pronounced signs and symptoms. These may include: impaired judgment; confusion and disorientation; difficulty with walking, talking, or taking care of themselves; hallucinations or delusions; and extreme changes in appetite or weight.
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to seek help from a health care provider. There are many ways to support your loved one as they undergo treatment for this condition. Here are some tips for family caregivers:
-Stay positive and encourage your loved one to remain active and engaged in their activities of daily living.
-Set clear boundaries for your loved one’s activities – make sure they know when they can no longer participate in certain activities, and be firm about enforcing those limits.
-Encourage the use of communication devices such as voice recorders or digital assistants to ensure smooth communication between you and your loved one during times of difficulty.
How to Care for a Family Member with Alzheimer’s Disease?
If you are a family member of someone with Alzheimer’s disease, age-related dementia (ARD), or another form of dementia, there are many things you can do to help care for that person.
First and foremost, take care of yourself. If you are experiencing stress or anxiety because of the caregiving responsibilities, that will only make your loved one’s condition worse. Make sure to get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet to keep your body and mind healthy.
Encourage socialization. Aside from providing companionship, spending time with other people can help to support for Alzheimer’s persons and improve their mood and cognitive function. Take them out for a meal or go on a walk together.
Stay connected to the person’s medical records. This information will be important if and when the person needs long-term care or hospice services.
Make sure the person has access to activities they enjoy. This may include hobbies, reading materials, music, or trips outside the home. These activities can help stimulate the brain and improve cognitive function while the person is living at home.
Effective Communication Tips for Caregivers
As a caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient, you may be feeling overwhelmed. The challenges of providing care can be compounded if you don’t have effective communication skills. Here are some tips to help improve your communication with your Alzheimer’s patient and family members:
1. Listen carefully. Caregivers often feel overwhelmed and frustrated when trying to communicate with their loved ones who suffer from Alzheimer’s or age-related dementia. It’s important to take the time to really hear what the person is saying, even if it feels like they’re talking in circles. If you’re able to do this, it will help open up lines of communication and build trust between you and your loved one.
2. Get acquainted with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related dementia. One of the best ways to understand what your loved one is experiencing is by becoming familiar with the symptoms of these conditions. This will help you better understand how they are feeling and help guide your communication accordingly.
3. Avoid assumptions and avoid getting upset. It can be easy for caregivers to jump to conclusions about what their loved ones are thinking or feeling, which can lead to frustration and conflict. Try not to make assumptions about what your loved one understands or doesn’t understand, and avoid getting emotional if things don’t go as planned.
4. Use simple language. When communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or age-related dementia, it can be helpful to use simple words and phrases. This will help your loved one understand what you’re saying and minimize the chances of confusion or conflict.
5. Avoid criticism. It’s important not to criticize or heap blame on your loved one during their time of struggle with Alzheimer’s disease or age-related dementia. Instead, try to offer support and understanding. This will help them feel valued and respected, which can make a big difference in their emotional wellbeing.