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Coping and Support

Coping and Support

Dealing with People Suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease: Tips for Caregivers

People suffering from AD often tend to have difficulties remembering things and also lose their ability to think. Those in the severe stage of the disease are totally dependent on others for simple activities of daily living (ADL). Dealing with and caring for someone with AD is difficult and stressful. Following are some tips to help you better understand and cope with your loved one suffering from AD.

Cognitive impairment, seen as memory loss, is the most prominent and one of the early signs of AD. As AD progresses, the problems with memory worsen and the person starts to have confusions and problems understanding simple things. This section provides tips to cope up with specific symptoms appearing in different stages of AD and related problems.

 

Loss of Memory (Dementia)

In the early stage of the disease (mild AD), the memory loss and confusion may be mild and people tend to forget recent events. However, as the disease progresses, the person may not recognize family members, forget names of their loved ones, or forget their way to home. The person may also forget to use some of the most common items at home, for example, using a spoon to eat, switching off electric switches, etc.

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What Should You Do?

  • Stay calm although your loved one may be referring to you by some other name
  • Do not shout at them or give suggestions that sound like scolding
  • Use photographs to remind person of important relationships and places

Example: Point at the picture and say, “Mom, this is you and Nicole”

  • Understand that the person may not be living in the “present time.” Your loved one may recollect times of the past and think that as the reality. For example, he or she may remember the times when they were young. Do engage in conversations about their college or old friends

 

Loss of Communication Skills

  • Talk to person in brief sentences giving minimum instructions at one time

√ Don’t say, “Take the blue cup and keep on the smaller table on right side”

× Rather say, “Take the cup and keep it on the table”

  • Make an eye contact with the person, while talking to them
  • Try to minimize other distractions, such as television or music, so that the person can concentrate and listen to what you are saying
  • Do not communicate with the person in negative tone. Try positive ways to convey your instructions

 Don’t say, “Don’t stand and bend near the railings of balcony”

× Rather say, “Sit down on the chair in the balcony”

 

Difficulties Performing Routine Activities

Your loved one may need your constant help for daily routine activities, such a bathing, getting dressed, eating, etc.

What Should You Do?

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Bathing

  • Bathing is scary and uncomfortable for some people with AD. Therefore, plan bathing when the person is calm and non-aggressive
  • Arrange everything you need in advance
  • Keep talking to the person about what you are going to do, step by step
  • Be careful with the water temperature
  • Bathing may not be necessary every day for a person in severe stage of AD. Consider giving a sponge bath

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Dressing

  • People with AD often have problems getting dressed as it involves multiple sequential steps
  • Give enough time and let the person dress on their own
  • Keep few sets of clothes to choose from
  • Arrange the clothes in the order they need to be put on and give only one item at a time
  • Choose clothes that are comfortable, easy to wear and remove

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Eating

  • Chose a pleasant and quiet place with minimum distractions
  • Offer food that is appealing and has familiar flavors
  • Encourage the person to drink plenty of fluids
  • Serve only small portions or small meals throughout the day
  • Remember in the early stages, the person may tend to overeat
  • Use utensils that are easy to use independently by the patient

Use bowl instead of dishes as it may cause minimum spilling

Give fluids through a cup that has a straw or lid to make drinking easier

 

Sleep Problems

Some people with AD show increased behavioral problems, such as restlessness and irritability at dusk. This is known as “sundowning” syndrome. Sundowning may be caused due to:

  • Mental and physical exhaustion at end of the day
  • Disturbed biological clock of the body
  • Increased confusion due to reduced lighting and increased shadows
  • Difficulty separating dreams from reality during sleep

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What Should You Do?

  • Encourage the person to exercise during the day and try to reduce their day time napping
  • Create a quiet and pleasant atmosphere in the evening
  • Ask them to go to bed at the same time everyday
  • Limit intake of caffeinated drinks
  • Keep a dim light in the bedroom, if the person is afraid of darkness

 

Wandering

People with AD often get disoriented and wander away from their home. Since they are unable to remember their name or address they are at risk of getting lost. Following are some tips to protect your loved one from wandering and getting lost

What Should You Do?

  • Make the person wear or carry some kind of identity card
  • Keep your neighbors and local authorities informed that the person is suffering from a medical condition and has a tendency to wander
  • Keep a recent picture of the person, so that it will be easier to take help if the person is lost
  • Try to keep the doors of the house locked as far as possible
  • Take Care of Yourself: Health Tips For the Caregivers

 

 
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