Alzheimer's disease is a degenerating condition, one which progresses up to the point where the senior in question needs assistance with even the simplest of tasks. In most cases, the family members are often the ones to assume the caregiving responsibility, having a lot to learn in a very short period of time. In this article, we will explore this topic, so that hopefully you will find it easier to overcome the challenges associated with acting as a caregiver for a senior with Alzheimer's dementia diagnosis. As you will see for yourself, caregivers should always practice self-care, otherwise they present an increased risk of burnout. At some point, they will have to consider other long-term care options, such as assisted living or memory care.
Who is a caregiver?
It can be difficult to notice that one of your loved ones has started to present signs of dementia. Forgetfulness, confusion, cognitive decline - these are only a few of the symptoms one might experience. Seniors who suffer from Alzheimer's disease present an increased risk of wandering, not to mention the obvious risk of injuries inside the home. They might forget a pot on the stove, leave the water running, or hurt themselves unintentionally. Fearing the worst, family members are often the ones to assume the caregiving responsibility.
Even though they rarely possess the knowledge required for caring after a senior with Alzheimer's disease, family members are not hesitant, doing their best to look after their loved ones. The caring journey is long and filled with stress, not to mention the intense emotions one might experience. However, given that this condition cannot be cured, the support offered can make all the difference in the world. As a general rule, caregiving contributes to the best possible quality of life for the senior in question. Family members are encouraged to look at their caregiving journey from this perspective.
How are seniors supported by their caregivers? First and foremost, caregivers offer 24/7 supervision and monitoring, making sure that their loved ones are safe. They might adapt the home environment to their needs, thus eliminating the risk of wandering and/or injuries. As senior with Alzheimer's disease often deal with short-term memory loss, caregivers might offer prompts to help them keep track of everything. This might regard medication management, appointments, or finances. Assistance with daily living activities can be offered, in accordance with the level of independence. As the condition progresses and the symptoms become worse, the support provided will increase.
Should one reach the point where the memory loss is extensive, with confusion dominating, the caregiver can offer the necessary reassurance. They might help seniors feel less confused and complete certain tasks, including driving. Keeping a sense of structure is important, with caregivers having the responsibility to establish a daily routine that offers familiarity above all else. At the same time, seniors must be encouraged to participate to various tasks, under the supervision of their loved ones. The caregiver might choose activities to stimulate their senses, not to mention choose particular activities to encourage the senior in question to spend more time in the open outdoors. Social events might be planned, with consideration to how much stimulation one is able to bear.
Steps to take after the Alzheimer's dementia diagnosis
The diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can feel like a genuine blow, leaving you confused, uncertain of the next step. You might be deal with normal emotions, such as anger, depression, or frustration. Nonetheless, if you will take a moment and look at the bigger picture, you will realize that this is just the first step in a long journey. As the caregiver, you are taking on a huge challenge, caring after your loved one. It will come as a remarkable gift, teaching you about the value of life and love, not to mention it will remind you of the things that truly matter in life.
One of the best things you can do is to educate yourself on the disease, as well as one the best way to look after your loved one. Caregiving requires a delicate balance, as you need to care for the person dealing with all these devastating changes, but you must not forget yourself. You have to remember that caregiving comes as one of the purest expressions of love, changing your perspective on life. Even if you don't realize it, the caregiving journey will provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment. If you are worried about not having the necessary experience, you might join support groups, as these are guaranteed to help you broaden your horizon.
It might not be easy, but you have to accept the diagnosis and deal with all the conflicting emotions coming your way. As the next step, you will have to get yourself organized. First and foremost, you can organize a journal to keep track of everything related to caregiving. Add important dates and finance-related information. It might be necessary to organize a list of helpful resources, including the phone numbers and names of various healthcare professionals, along other essential data. You can ask your loved one to contribute, as much as it is possible. The better organized you are, the easier it will be to navigate these difficult moments.
There are a lot of useful resources that you can use, not only on the Internet, but also within the local community. You might not know this for a fact, but there is an Alzheimer's association available in every country. Aside from practical support and advice, they offer specific trainings for caregivers, which is a definite advantage to consider. Through such organizations, you might also come in contact with local support groups. As mentioned above, it is recommended to inform yourself about dementia and the associated symptoms. In this way, you will be best prepared to handle future challenges, adjusting your expectations and experiencing less frustration as a result.
Equipment and other products caregivers might consider
The living environment can be adapted to improve the daily life of those suffering from dementia, with a positive effect for caregivers as well. In choosing various pieces of equipment or different products, you will have to consider how it will help your loved one. For instance, you might consider a stand-assist or other mobility aids to facilitate transfers and mobility, as well as adult diapers for incontinence issues. As you will see for yourself, many products are designed to address the cognitive challenges, serving as memory aids. Used as instructed, these can make daily living easier, improving the overall quality of life.
Among the memory aids that are recommended for those with dementia, you might find some of the following: whiteboards (list making, reminders), clocks with large displays (date included), diaries and calendars (keep track of daily routine, appointments, etc.), medication box (best for early and middle stage dementia), automatic pill dispensers (suitable in the advanced stage of dementia). Various devices and products are meant to help with household tasks, helping dementia seniors stay safe and overcome the challenges of dementia. The list might include: kettle tipper, grip extension for appliance control, timer for the oven/hob, tray trolley, labels, non-slip rubber gloves, perching tools, etc. Within the bathroom, you might consider the following products: safety plugs, sponges with long handles, bath seats and/or boards, automatic pulleys for bath transfers, grab rails, bath steps, transfer benches, etc.
As going to the toilet can become quite difficult, you might consider making some changes. The toilet seat should be raised, and the senior will benefit from grab rails being installed near the toilet. For the nighttime, a bedpan might be best suited, as well as a waterproof mattress to help in case of accidents. You might also consider using pads for the same purpose, as well as incontinence pants that simply pull up. When it comes to mobility, there are a lot of equipment pieces available. Some of the recommended items include: bed hand blocks, chairs that can recline or rise as desired, beds with adjustable heights, hoists and pulleys for transfers, transfer aids, stairlifts, wheelchair ramps, grab rails, canes, wheelchairs, etc.
Useful tools and equipment for seniors with Alzheimer's
Medical Alert Systems For Seniors
Walkers For Seniors
Stand Assist Devices For Seniors
Bed Rails For Seniors
Toilet Safety Rails For Seniors
Adjustable Beds For Seniors
Stair Lifts For Seniors
Walk-in Tub For Seniors
Electric Wheelchairs For Seniors
Indoor Exercise Bikes For Seniors
Lightweight Transport Wheelchairs
Cell Phones For Seniors
Dementia might progress up to the point that it interferes with eating and drinking. The senior in question can suffer from coordination issues or swallowing difficulties, requiring special equipment to be able to eat and drink. If your loved one is struggling with such changes, you might consider purchasing any of the following: fixed trays with divided compartments for food, one-way straws (these do not allow the liquid to go back), cups with large handles that are labeled as non-spill, easy-to-grip cutlery (these usually have cushioned handles). It might also be recommended to use cutler and tableware in contrasting colors, following the same rule for food. Many seniors with dementia are dealing with visual problems, which can affect their ability to eat and drink.
Assistive technology has made a genuine difference whereas the overall quality of life for dementia seniors is concerned. At the same time, aside from using various pieces of equipment, you might consider rearranging the layout of the home, in order to help your loved one even more. For instance, you might rearrange the furniture and remove unnecessary clutter, installing wider doors that can accommodate various assistive devices. You can pay attention to patterns and surfaces, using contrasting colors to make coordination easier. Consider rearranging the outside space as well, as dementia seniors stand a lot to gain from spending time outdoors.
Self-care for caregivers
Caring for a senior with Alzheimer's disease can be challenging, and you might find yourself dealing with chronic stress. As your loved one will experience both cognitive and physical decline, with a clear impact on functional abilities, you will also deal with intense emotions. Many caregivers feel overwhelmed and anxious, forgetting all about their health. Caregiving is a burden, in more than one way, and it often happens that caregivers are dealing with anxiety and depression. Burnout can occur due to exhaustion, so it makes sense to practice self-care, in order to avoid such problems.
Dementia will cause your loved one to change, not to mention engage in abnormal and definitely disturbing behaviors. Having to witness such issues, it is only normal to experience a whirlwind of emotions, feeling confused and frustrated. Caregivers report sadness and loneliness, requiring support themselves. As dementia progresses, the caregiving need will increase. Financial responsibilities might make the whole process more complicated, with many caregivers experiencing fatigue. At the same time, they might not receive the recognition deserved, as their loved ones are no longer able to show appreciation.
One of the best things you can do is look at things from a different perspective. This will help you face the challenges brought by dementia and look after your loved one as deserved. First and foremost, caregiving is a selfless act, one which is based on pure love. Use these moments of intimacy to connect with your loved one and maybe even build new memories. Even though it might not be easy, these difficult moments will teach you not to take life for granted. You will learn what truly matters and where your priorities should stand. As a result, you will find the strength to focus on things that are meaningful, instead of trivial ones.
Gratitude can help you maintain a positive state of mind and keep on caring for your loved one. You are making a difference, and this is enough to provide purpose, to help you feel like you are needed, not to mention valued. Maybe you were meant to care for someone with dementia and the sense of accomplishment derived from this cannot be denied. From a practical perspective, the caregiving journey will teach you a lot of new things, including coping techniques. You will become more confident in your ability to overcome difficult moment, which in turn will lead to added resilience. Caregiving, as the selfless act that it is, will bring you closer to compassion, helping you serve as a role model for other family members.
Practicing self-care is not an easy goal, especially since the caregiving journey can be so overwhelming. This is why it is important to benefit from support, including from the other members in your family. Respite care might be a solution for those difficult moments, when you feel like you just can't go on. Simple measures can help you maintain an excellent state of health, both physically and emotionally. For instance, you will have to eat healthy, sleep for the recommended amount of time, and get a daily walk. Naturally, it is also essential to deal with the emotions experienced, seeking support. Therapy will allow you to protect all those feelings of anger and frustration bubbling inside, thus avoiding burnout.
Asking for help might seem like the obvious thing to do, but many caregivers often fail to seek out support. The caregiving journey is meant to be shared, either with other family members, friends, or outside resources. Aside from respite care, you might consider in-home help and adult day care. There are plenty of NGOs that provide various services for seniors with dementia, thus relieving the caregiving burden. It is essential for you to benefit from breaks, so that you can look after your own health, not to mention to pursue personal interests. The more time you have for yourself, the better equipped you will be to look after your loved one with dementia. You should never feel guilty for needing respite, after all you are human, and you deserve a break.
It might be beneficial to join a support group and thus discover the value of talking about your caregiving journey. As you will see for yourself, these meetings can help with the emotional release, making you feel better. Connecting with other people, caregivers who are facing similar challenges, will give you renewed strength, especially since you will feel less isolated. Self-care, from an emotional point of view, also means being realistic about your loved one and his/her abilities. Dementia is a progressive condition, so you will have to learn to find something positive in each day that passes. Find small things for which to be grateful and help your senior enjoy the daily routine, working on your emotional awareness at the same time.
Here are a few recommendations on how you can cope with the changes in your loved one:
There might come a point when it will be difficult to communicate with your loved one, as many dementia seniors experience both cognitive and speech-related changes. Their memory might be affected as well, leading to increased confusion. Again, what matters is that you are able to manage your own frustration, as this is beneficial for both parties. Dementia seniors need patience, as your forcible behavior will only make matters worse. You should also pay increased attention to your body language, as people with dementia often rely on nonverbal cues. When speech is used, be sure to use simple words, spoken without hurry and in a clear manner. Avoid memory-related challenges, use a respectful tone, and allow seniors to take breaks when desired.
- Seek help and support - you can rely on family members and friends, support groups, or NGOs
- Find time to pursue your personal interests and hobbies
- Look at the act of caregiving as a rewarding thing, one which provides both purpose and a sense of accomplishment
- Involve other family members in the caregiving journey, if possible - together, you will find it easier to look after your loved one
- Plan for the future - think about life as your senior enters the middle and late stage of dementia (what adaptations or changes might be necessary)
- Deal with difficult emotions and accept them as they are
- Educate yourself on the topic of dementia - the more you learn, the better prepared you will be for future challenges
- Keep your expectations reasonable, this is the best way to continue on the caregiving journey without feeling frustrated or angry
- Do what you can to preserve your loved one's independence, with a satisfying daily routine
- Do not hesitate to consider caregiver support when necessary, including in-home help, adult day care, or respite care
Long-term care options for elderly with Alzheimer's disease
Unfortunately, there might come a time when your caregiving efforts are not enough. Dementia can progress up to the point where both the physical and mental health are severely impaired, with changes affecting one's cognition, speech, and mobility. Seniors might refuse being cared for, becoming aggressive. They might end up hurting themselves or injuring others, with an increased risk of accidents. Confusion will make them engage in abnormal or potentially harmful behaviors, with caregivers having to monitor their actions 24/7. When all of these changes prove to be too much and you are dealing with burnout, then it will be the time to consider other long-term care options.
Of course, it is not simple to take such a decision, considering that it involves a significant change. However, you have to think of the benefits incurred, rather than what will be missing. Assisted living communities welcome seniors who are in the early stages of dementia, providing adapted living units, limited healthcare, and assistance with daily living activities. In addition, dementia seniors have access to a wide range of beneficial services and amenities, with a satisfying daily routine. For those who are in the middle and late stages of dementia, memory care facilities are best suited. These offer 24/7 monitoring, extended healthcare, and numerous safety features designed to keep seniors secure. Within such centers, dementia seniors have the opportunity to thrive, without any threats to their safety.
Caring for a senior who suffers from dementia is challenging and it can affect your general well-being, especially if you do not practice self-care on a regular basis. As a caregiver, you will have to find the balance between caregiving and self-care, something which hopefully will be easier thanks to the advice included in this article. We recommend that you educate yourself on the topic of dementia, as this will help you be best prepared for future challenges. It is also essential to consider long-term care options at a certain point, especially in the late stage of dementia. As you have seen, the best choices are memory care and assisted living, each with its benefits to offer.
Which services does assisted living provide?
Paying for assisted living
What to look for in luxury assisted living?
Short term assisted living
What is the difference between assisted living and nursing home
Assisted living for Alzheimer's disease
Assisted living for dementia
Memory care for Alzheimer's disease
Incontinence care in assisted living
Memory care for dementia
What to look for in a memory care facility
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)
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