Every 66 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s Disease. It is estimated that more than 5 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s. While this progressive disease of the brain is often viewed as a death sentence for both afflicted individuals and their caretakers, there are ways to help your loved ones cope with symptoms.
Pay attention to their communication – and yours.
One of the first major symptoms of Alzheimer’s is a loss of communication abilities. Someone experiencing the onset of Alzheimer’s might start to have trouble finding the right words to say or struggle to comprehend the meaning of a previously familiar word. This can be frustrating, so it is important that you pay attention to the words that they’re struggling with and adapt your own communication. Pay attention to your body language, the tone of your voice, and the words you choose. Keep encouraging conversation or distract them if communication becomes too difficult. Remain patient, calm, and be reassuring. Refrain from “baby-talk” or speaking as if the person isn’t there. Include them in conversation and gently repeat yourself as needed.
Establish a daily routine and help with reminders.
Over time, Alzheimer’s patients lose the ability to remember things they need to do. This can lead to further confusion and agitation. Therefore, it is important that caregivers help their loved ones structure their days, creating a routine that is consistent and easy-to-follow. Also, daily activities should involve doing something enjoyable, as that can help counter the feelings of frustration. When planning, be sure to consider what times work best for specific activities, and allow plenty of time for meals and other daily necessities as well as medical appointments. Plans can be adjusted as needed.
Keep track of changes in conditions.
As a caregiver, you are one of the most helpful resources an individual has in helping to convey to doctors and family members changes in conditions. According to Mohsen M. Hamza, M.D., Alzheimer’s patients will have problems with learning new information, with personality and behavioral changes, speaking in conversations, and confusion and disorientation. Tracking these changes allows neurologists and other medical care providers to better treat your loved one’s symptoms.
Remember, caring for the Alzheimer’s patient also means caring for the caregiver. Your role in providing care is crucial, but it is important to also practice your own self-care. Be mindful of changes in behaviors and ability loss. Remain calm and supportive throughout the often stressful and scary changes that occur.