Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a very challenging disorder that affects the brain's nerve cells. Many brain functions can become impaired in the process. Thinking skills, memory, and the development of behavioral changes are often the most obvious symptoms of the disease. Due to our aging population in the United States, this disease has been recognized as having a major impact on our social and healthcare systems.
There are stages of this disease where the symptoms can be mild, and a person may have functional limitations with their short term memory for example, and then there are those cases that evolve into a person requiring one on one care and monitoring 24/7, to avoid problems with safety in the home. Many informational resources are available on line. Some counties offer support groups and adult day care programs. If you do not have resources in your area we can try to help you locate options closest to you. The following list of suggestions may help you manage the care of a person with memory problems. Also look for specific suggestions under the Home Management Tab, associated with ways to assist a person manage their ADL's (Activities of Daily Living. ie. bathing, dressing and/or self care), when they have dementia.
9 R's in Alzheimer's Care (Taken in part from www.alz.org) Some general things to keep in mind:
- Routine - Try to stick to a routine when managing daily activities. It helps the patient identify what is expected of him or her and can make the outcome more successful. Try to consistently approach activities the same way; getting into the shower, getting out of the shower, sitting on the same seat to dress, etc
- Rituals - Maintain habits that the patient has had. If the patient showers every morning before breakfast, try to continue that habit. Changes to long standing behaviors can cause confusion and fear.
- Reassessphysical health if there is a behavioral change. Many times people can demonstrate more confusion or agitation when they have a physical change. A UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) is a good example of a physical change that can inadvertently cause a behavioral change. *Just because a person has dementia, or is labeled with a disease like Alzheimer’s, it does not mean that they won't continue to have colds, urinary tract infections, the flu, cardiac changes, etc..
- Redirector change a person from repetitive thought patterns. If a person asks you "When can I go home?" (whether they are home or not), you can offer the person another activity to do or a snack.
- Real questions-may be difficult to decipher if the person with AD has difficulty communicating. Increased agitation, for instance could be his or her way of telling you a trip to the restroom is needed. Learn to read body language.
- Reconsider the behavior. Is it really a problem, or is it just upsetting to you? Does it present a danger to the person with AD? If the person talks to his or her reflection in a mirror as if it was another person, is that a real problem? Does it please the person with AD or does it upset or frighten him or her?
- Respect the person with AD. Laugh with, not at the person. Never talk about the person as if he or she is not there. And remember, the person with AD will know how you feel by your body language and tone of voice.
- Reassure the person with AD often that you love and will care for him or her. A gentle pat, stroking the hair, or holding a hand all say, "I care for you."
- Remember the person with AD is still a human being. Treat him or her the way you would want to be treated if you were suffering from dementia.
Managing a loved one with AD or dementia requires patience and commitment. The caregiver needs to recognize their limits and work on establishing ways to care for themselves as well. It is very hard to provide care for someone if the caregiver is tired and overwhelmed. Make sure that the caregiver is well cared for too!
Find some helpful ideas under Care-Partner's Corner section of our website ! Now Lets Get Going! xo - Sally
If you would like to learn more about Sally Thimm OTR/L Occupational Therapy Services visit: Professional Case Management of SWFL