Watching a loved one struggle with an illness as serious as Alzheimer’s or dementia is truly heartbreaking. Although you are dealing with your own suffering as well, you shouldn’t let your personal trouble get in the way of taking care of your parent, grandparent, or other elderly person affected by the illness.
Learning in order to understand
If your family member has just been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, invest your emotions and time into learning. Read books, search for information on the internet, ask for advice from people who have been in your shoes and talk to doctors and other caregivers who will be able to share their experience with you. You need to learn more about your loved one’s condition, what they are and will be going through, how to take care of them. A lot of hardship lies ahead, as caring for persons suffering from such forms of memory loss is far from easy.
You won’t be able to do everything alone, and you’ll frequently need other people’s help. Don’t hesitate to keep your siblings and other family members involved—as together you’ll handle the difficulties more easily. Patients are ever less able to function independently over time, so more and more assistance is required. You’ll also need professional help for guidance, but also for those times when you inevitably have to be absent and have someone experienced take care of your loved one. You can hire a highly qualified nurse for home-care, or have your (grand)parent stay at an aged care center. Excellent aged care facilities like Bellmere will provide them with a safe, nurturing environment, chances to socialize, and round-the-clock, customized help with their daily activities.
Safe proofing the home
Many objects in our homes can cause accidents if used improperly. It’s therefore important to adjust the person’s environment to their needs and avoid exposing them to risk. Move sharp and other dangerous items like knives, needles, razors, tools, matches, lighters, cleaning products, and similar objects somewhere they cannot be accessed. Stoves, cookers, and kettles with automatic shut-off switches are a great means of preventing fire. Moreover, install smoke detectors, safe proof the cabinets, sharp edges, stairs, slippery areas like tiles, and any other hazardous areas. You can also install cameras in certain rooms, like the kitchen, if you want to be able to check if everything is alright when you’re not present. These are only some of the ways to create a safer environment.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s involve many striking behavioral changes, rooted in the immense deterioration of cognitive skills and memory. That especially goes for the middle and late stage, when the disease has progressed significantly. Consequently, you need to re-learn how to communicate with your loved one and handle the expressions of anger, strong disapproval or refusal to do what is suggested, spatial and temporal disorientation, the urge to pace around, failures to remember and recognize names, people, and things around them, even occasional outbursts of physical violence and aggression toward their closest ones.
The key thing to understand is that none of that is actually purposeful behavior, but a consequence of the disease, so don’t, under any circumstance, see it as reason for arguments. Instead, remain calm and positive in such situations so as not to further upset the person. Try to pinpoint the immediate cause of their feeling of discomfort, as there may be something in themselves or in their surroundings that’s further provoking the behavior—noise, objects, physical discomfort, crowd, overloads of information, etc. Sometimes moments may appear when the person looks like they’ve come back to their old self. Don’t mistake them for signs of long-term improvement, as they’re unfortunately not. These temporary situations can be very deceptive for the patient’s closest ones, leading to the belief that the person isn’t suffering from the given illness.
Caring for an elderly person with Alzheimer’s or dementia is an uninterrupted, long process that requires much learning, adjustment, and strength. Arm yourself with patience, knowledge, and support from others to endure the challenges ahead.