Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is challenging. If you are caring for a spouse or close family member it can be even more challenging as you’re also dealing with the emotion of seeing a loved one in a state of decline.
There are some practical tips caregivers can take to help manage stress.
Reduce Alzheimer’s Frustration & Agitation
Agitation is common in people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Agitation can be caused by boredom, new situations, fear stemming from trying to make sense of a world they don’t understand, or basic needs like hunger.
Caregivers might not be able to reduce agitation completely but there are steps they 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.
Activities that provide a sense of independence and purpose can ease agitation – 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 their favorite craft. See our ideas for different activities or these tips from the Alzheimer’s Association.
Realize You Are Not Alone
While caregivers may feel isolated, it is important to know many others are in the same situation. Don’t be afraid to attend support groups where you can share your feelings or ask for helpful ideas. The Alzheimer’s Association and other organizations also offer online forums and support where you can connect with others 24 hours a day.
Develop A Schedule
Develop a basic schedule based around your loved one’s mood and needs. For example scheduling appointments, bathing and other activities in the morning when they are rested and have more energy.
As late afternoon approaches you may sense a trend of wandering or agitation from sundowning. This could be a good time of day to engage them in easy, soothing activities such as listening to music, watching a familiar movie, clipping coupons or looking through old photos. Click to read The Memory Center tips on how to manage sundowning.
Acknowledge 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.
Think About Safety
In addition to memory loss, Alzheimer’s also affects other brain functions including sense of perception and balance. Creating a safe place in the home where they can walk safely without trip hazards including rugs, cords, or sharp corners is highly encouraged.
Another safety concern is wandering, which is a common behavior for people with memory loss. Even if your loved one isn’t wandering, it is still a good idea to 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.
Take A Break & Ask For Help
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 your loved one.
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 in working with people living Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Get More Alzheimer’s Tips
The Memory Center is 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.
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