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Essential Caregiving for Alzheimer’s Patients

Posted: 1/1/2021 3:23 PM by Interim HealthCare
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that affects memory and thinking skills. As it progresses, symptoms become worse, leading to patients not being able to perform simple tasks. Family members or caregivers have to step in to help the patient with daily tasks. 

Early-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease Care

Early-stage Alzheimer’s is often just thought of as forgetfulness. Family members or caregivers often feel that at this point, helping the patient is not necessary. If they’re still functioning and carrying out everyday activities, it doesn’t seem that they require help.
However, Alzheimer’s is a disease that requires constant care. Patients may feel too embarrassed to ask for help or may want to remain independent. At this time, it is important to help them out, even if it’s with smaller tasks.
One of the main symptoms of the disease is degenerative memory loss, so reminders are essential. This is especially important if patients have to take medication or have a doctor’s appointment. While the patient may still be able to take care of everyday tasks like dressing, memory loss can affect routines and cause confusion. Helping patients establish a routine and stick to it is an excellent strategy to combat this.

Monitoring Medication

While there is no medication that can cure Alzheimer’s disease, there are medicines that are used to treat the symptoms. However, in doing so, they can cause undesirable side effects such as tremors, agitation, and falling. Caregiving for Alzheimer’s disease includes being aware of how to deliver medication, when to deliver it, and how to manage side effects.
Alzheimer’s caregiving ensures that patients are taking their medicine, and often establishes routines so that this is done properly. It can be useful to separate pills and keep track of them or keep a calendar to track medication use.

Helping with Dressing

Dressing is one of the basic daily tasks that Alzheimer’s patients may have difficulty with. Whether it’s putting on the clothes, or choosing them, the process can get frustrating. This is especially hard in more advanced Alzheimer’s where patients may not remember how to dress.
Caregiving for Alzheimer’s includes taking care of all dressing problems, from physical problems to cognitive ones. Physical problems with dressing include buttoning up clothing or opening and closing zippers, especially if the patient’s motor skills are impaired. They may also have trouble balancing, making it difficult to get dressed and undressed.
To ensure that patients are not overwhelmed with choice, caregivers should declutter clothes so that only simple options remain. It can also be helpful to lay out items in the order they should be put on, and to give short, specific instructions instead of an overall statement. For example, instead of telling a patient to “get dressed”, a caregiver may break it down into steps such as “Put on your socks”, etc. Sufficient time should be allocated to the dressing process since rushing the patient can cause anxiety.

Managing Sundown Syndrome

Sundown Syndrome refers to anxiety, agitation, or confusion that occurs in Alzheimer’s patients later in the day. Sundowning can occur because of a number of reasons, including fading light, disruption of one’s circadian rhythm, exhaustion, and more.
However, caregivers can take a number of steps to manage the symptoms caused by sundowning or to prevent the occurrence of sundowning. Establishing a routine is essential, since it sets particular timings for meals, waking up, sleeping, etc.
Keeping the area well-lit is another helpful tip. This, along with closing the drapes before sunset, can help prevent triggering sundowning. Introducing a night light can be helpful if patients become agitated in the dark.
Alzheimer’s caregiving can also include looking into eating habits. Preventing sugary drinks and caffeine during the evening can help keep them relaxed. Stimulating activities in the evening should also be avoided, including loud background noises and watching television. Relaxing music or nature sounds can be played instead.
Physical activities during the day may also help the patient sleep better at night. If the patient falls sleep outside of their bedroom (for example, on the couch), instead of waking them up, let them rest. Waking the patient can be disorienting and upsetting.
If sundowning occurs when a person is in unfamiliar surroundings, make sure to bring familiar items so that they can focus on a familiar setting and become relaxed. Distraction with enjoyable activities may also help manage sundowning symptoms.

Communication

Communicating with an Alzheimer’s patient can be difficult since they may have trouble finding the appropriate words to use or may become confused. When trying to communicate, speak slowly, and keep communication short and clear. Reducing general statements and being specific can also help, as can mentioning only one thing at a time.
Repetition may be necessary because of the patient’s memory problems – this includes rephrasing statements with either simpler language or fewer words. Close-ended questions should be asked, since they are easier to answer. Caregivers should also avoid slang, sarcasm, and irony. It is also helpful to use nouns instead of pronouns.

Establishing Routines

Establishing routines can help give patients a sense of consistency. This includes waking up, going to bed, and taking medication at the same time every day and keeping up with regular activities such as meeting people. Looking for behavioral patterns can help adjust this routine. For example, if sundowning is a major factor affecting the patient, important activities should be scheduled in the morning instead.

Dealing with Hallucinations & Delusions

Alzheimer’s caregiving may include dealing with patients hallucinating or suffering from delusions. Psychosis is never easy to handle – when a patient is in the midst of it, instead of arguing with them, caregivers should focus on reassuring them or distracting them. It is also important to make sure that there are no harmful objects around so that the patient can remain safe.
Psychotic episodes can be attributed to physical illnesses such as UTIs or can be caused by environmental factors. These should be looked into, and a detailed account maintained.

The Importance of Quality Caregiving

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses in a patient, it can be hard to keep up with care, especially specialized care. Whether it’s other responsibilities or time constraints, outside help may be required.
To ensure the best possible care, choose Interim Healthcare for your caregiving needs. From specialized home care to hospice services, Interim Healthcare can ensure quality care from highly-trained professionals.
We operate in nearly 50 states and have over 300 franchises under the Interim Healthcare umbrella. No matter your location, we can be sure to assist you. Contact us for additional information or any further questions – we’re here to help.
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