Alzheimer’s is responsible for between 50% and 70% of all cases of dementia. This progressive disease damages the brain and impairs cognitive function over time. The exact cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown, and unfortunately there is no cure.
As the disease progresses, the person living with Alzheimer’s is going to need help getting by in their day-to-day life. If you’re taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s, there are a number of things you can do to help manage the situation.
1. Learn more about Alzheimer’s
A better understanding of this disease can help you plan for what’s to come. Since this is a progressive disease, the needs of the person you’re caring for increase over time. Alzheimer’s disease consists of three stages: mild, moderate, and severe. People with mild or early stage Alzheimer’s can still function independently, but may have problems with memory, concentration and problem solving. Moderate Alzheimer’s usually involves significant memory loss, confusion, trouble performing daily tasks and personality changes. Finally, people with severe Alzheimer’s will need help with almost all their basic daily activities.
2. Establish a routine
You can help the person you’re caring for feel more comfortable and confident by creating a constant daily routine. It can help to structure these into morning, afternoon and evening components. Schedule more strenuous tasks at times of day when the person you’re caring for feels most active and focused. Prepare for the fact that tasks may take longer than they used to and allow more time for them. Include time for breaks during tasks too. Try to include the person with Alzheimer’s to do as much as possible themselves. Give simple one-step instructions or visual cues to help them along. Also allow some flexibility for spontaneous activities or especially challenging days.
3. Organise activities
Structured and enjoyable activities can help reduce stress and help the person you’re caring for feel calmer and happier. Take their likes, dislikes, interests and physical abilities into consideration when coming up with your activity plan. Activities could include cooking and baking, watching movies, a walk in the park, outings to a museum or restaurant, or visiting family and friends. Be sure to plan activities at times of the day when they feel most energetic and engaged. This will help ensure they don’t get too tired or lose interest mid activity.
4. Keep communicating
Alzheimer’s disease can significantly reduce a person’s ability to communicate. They may have difficulty understanding, remembering certain words or keeping their train of thought. While this can often be frustrating or upsetting for the caregiver, there are ways to help you understand each other better. For example, ask simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions when possible, maintain eye contact, speak in a calm and clear voice, use their name often, give them time to respond and listen to what they have to say. Be patient, offer reassurance, and try not to agitate them by contradicting their statements.
5. Create a safe environment
People with Alzheimer’s are often not fully aware of their surroundings. They may become confused, forget what they are doing and often their judgment is impaired. All of this can expose them to an increased risk of personal injury. You can help keep them from physical harm by taking a few precautions. Prevent falls by removing slippery rugs, extension cords or other clutter. Install handrails in critical areas. Lock all cabinets and cupboards containing potentially dangerous items such as medication, cleaning products, sharp tools or alcohol. Keep matches and lighters out of reach, and always have a fire extinguisher at hand.
6. Support and assisted living for Alzheimer's
When a person gets to the severe stage of Alzheimer's, it might be a good idea to start looking at a care facility that can take care of someone living with this disease. At Totalcare, we are fully equipped to provide the professional care, facilities and support Alzheimer patients need to stay safe, healthy and comfortable. We currently manage seven retirement villages across South Africa, with assisted living and frail care units. Our residents are looked after by our national nursing services manager, sisters, nurses and care workers. Residents also have access to a doctor, occupational therapist and support services. Our team will assess the needs of each resident to ensure they get the exact level of care they need throughout every stage of their life with Alzheimer’s.
Let us help you take care of your loved ones. For more information about us, you can head over to our homepage