Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia is challenging, and caring for a spouse or family member add the emotions of seeing a loved one in a state of decline.
While there are no easy answers or fool-proof way to get through a day as a caregiver without any frustration, there are practical tips that can help you prepare for common challenges.
Handling Alzheimer’s Frustration & Agitation
Agitation is common in people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It can be caused by boredom, new situations, fear stemming from trying to make sense of a world they no longer understand, or basic needs like being thirsty.
While caregivers can’t completely eliminate agitation there are steps you can take to get ahead of it.
Take note of when agitation seems to occur. Is it a a specific time of day around mealtime? Perhaps they are hungry or thirsty. Is it at a busy time of day when other family members are coming home from work? If so try to limit noise or outside distractions and engage them in an appropriate activity.
Try incorporating activities that provide a sense of independence and purpose – especially with those in the early stages of the disease. Familiar activities like setting the table, gardening, folding laundry, helping in the kitchen (with supervision), or a favorite craft. See our ideas for different activities or these tips from the Alzheimer’s Association.
Feeling Like There Is No Routine
Even though it might sound impossible, developing a basic schedule around your loved one’s mood and daily needs is beneficial for everyone.
Knowing what to expect such as eating breakfast at the same time each day, taking a walk after lunch, sorting cards in the afternoon helps everyone feel more at ease with the day and also eliminate blocks of time where it seems like there is nothing to do (which can quickly lead to agitation).
Plan to schedule appointments, bathing and other activities during the time of day when your loved one is usually more rested, has more energy and is more agreeable. For most people with memory loss, this is in the morning.
As late afternoon approaches many will begin wandering and can become agitation from sundowning. During this time of day plan easy, soothing activities such as listening to music, watching a familiar movie, clipping coupons or looking through old photos.
Not Getting Enough Help and Support
Caregivers often feel isolated and it is important to know you are not alone! Many others are in the same situation so don’t be afraid to reach out and attend support groups where you can share your feelings and learn from others. The Alzheimer’s Association and other organizations also offer online forums and support where you can connect with others 24 hours a day.
Caregivers are under a lot of stress and often don’t take time to keep up with friends, exercise routines or their own needs. Not taking breaks can easily lead to fatigue and caregiver burnout which isn’t good for you or the person you are caring for.
Even if someone with Alzheimer’s objects, caregivers need to schedule time away on a regular basis. Ask another family member for help or consider using respite services who can provide caregivers experienced working with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The more you enlist the same person to help on a consistent basis the more comfortable everyone will become.
Safety Issues & Concerns
In addition to memory loss, Alzheimer’s also affects other brain functions including sense of perception and balance. Create a safe place in the home where they can walk without trip hazards such as rugs, cords, or sharp corners is highly encouraged and can reduce falls or other accidents.
Another safety concern is wandering, which is a common behavior for people with memory loss. Even if your loved one isn’t wandering, you should still take steps to prevent wandering before it starts.Consider installing locks high up on doors and adding an alarm system, or a simple bell mechanism, that will alert you if a door has been opened. ID bracelets and other tracking devices like Medic Alert can help identify your loved one should they wander off.
Accepting Each Day Is Different
Even with a schedule every day will be different and sometimes you just need to be flexible. Those with Alzheimer’s, and their caregivers, will have better days than others. There may be days you feel like you didn’t get anything accomplished – and it is OK to feel that way. Keeping someone fed, safe, bathed and occupied is a big job and an accomplishment in itself.
Get More Alzheimer’s Tips
All Memory Center communities are dedicated to meeting the challenging conditions of an aging brain with a caring, interactive community designed around the individual. We are here to support our current residents, future residents and their families by providing resources and exceptional programming to those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Fill out our contact form to receive more tips and information on how to live well with Alzheimer’s and dementia or find out more about our communities in Virginia Beach, Richmond/Midlothian or Atlanta/Johns Creek.