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Monday, November 21, 2016

Caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease

Caring for a parent with Alzheimer's diseaseAlzheimer’s disease is one of the major medical problems of our world today. Statistics say that one in nine people aged over 65 years suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Since our life expectancy is increasing dramatically with the advancement of the health sector, it is estimated that by 2050 someone in the US will develop the disease every 33 seconds and the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease will rise from 5.2 million to an estimated 13.8 million. However, scientists are continuously working on improving the treatment outcomes and looking at possible cure and preventive measures of the disease. At present, however, there is no cure for the disease and the main goal of the treatment right now is focused on managing the memory loss symptoms and behavioral changes. You should also read about the causes of beta amyloid plaque formation in Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer’s disease begins with memory loss especially the short term memory such as forgetting where one kept his or her car keys or missing important events. Memory loss is the most prominent and initial presenting features because the pathology starts in part of the brain called the entorhinal cortex which is responsible for maintenance of intact memory. As the disease progresses and affects other parts of the brain other symptoms and signs start to appear. People start forgetting where they are or how they got there. They may get lost while driving or even walking. They have difficulty expressing themselves and show poor judgment. Behavioral changes like aggression, anxiety, confusion occur and they may suffer from depression. It is extremely important for a caregiver to know how to care for his or her loved ones such parents or other close relatives who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

How to take care of a loved one with memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease?

As discussed above, initially the short term memory is affected. Unfortunately, as the diseases progress, the long term memory is also affected which is called amnesia. It is an extremely important and sensitive topic to discuss because memory is what defines a person. We will discuss another day about what memory is and how it develops.

Memory loss not only affects the individuals suffering from it but also those supporting them. In the initial stages of memory loss, people usually are aware of the changes that are taking place. Some people get easily frustrated while some get anxious. Some lose their self-confidence and get embarrassed. Some may even withdraw themselves from social gatherings. One of the most painful thing that happens in the later stages is difficulty in recognizing people including family members.

Let’s discuss a few ways you can help your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease

  1. Stay calm. It is extremely important for family members to stay calm and expect the symptoms and signs that come with the natural progression of the disease. As a caregiver, it is vital that you analyse and response to every situation in a calm manner. 
  2. Try to evoke memory in a positive manner. Avoid directly telling your loved one that they had the same conversation before or that they have met with someone particular before. Instead use pictures other items that can provoke thoughts that will help the person recall information. 
  3. If something is not important to remember then do not force it. Ask yourself whether it is really important for your loved one to remember a certain information. If not, the do not try to force him or her to recall it. It might lead to unnecessary confusion and agitation.
  4. Follow a regular routine. It is seen that following an established routine life helps the person remember what is going to happen. 
  5. Set up an emergency pocket notebook which should include all the essential information in case the person gets lost. This should include the person’s name, address, emergency contact number and other essential details. Instead of a notebook, an ID bracelet could also be used. You could also invest in locator device which uses GPS to track the person. 
  6. Help them keep a journal to keep track of the things that have happened and to keep a to-do lists. 
  7. You can even give help them use a camera to take photos regularly. The type of camera will obviously depend on the person’s ability to use properly, but it can be a digital camera, a polaroid camera or even a phone. Ask them to associate the photo with the journal. There are even automated cameras out there today which will automatically take around 100 pictures or so at regular intervals in a day. 
  8. Ask them simple straightforward questions like “Are you hungry?” instead of “Have you had lunch?”. When you go out to eat instead of asking them what they would like to eat it is better to give them a menu or options so that they can choose. 
  9. If something needs to be explained then do it in a simple manner. Do not use complicated words or expressions and if necessary repeat your explanation. 
  10. If they are struggling to converse then do not rush them. Instead, pause for a while so that they can find the word. If they are taking too long then offer them suggestions based on the surrounding context. Be patient and do not jump on completing their sentence instead help them remember the words. 
  11. Help them recall someone by introducing like “Here is your granddaughter, Mom”. This way the person will not get embarrassed. 
  12. Avoid places that are too crowded with high background noise. Try to establish a calm relaxed environment where the person will not feel stressed out. Stress can hamper the memory even more. 
  13. Set up a particular place to keep regularly used items such as keys or glasses. If necessary use labels or sticky notes to identify them. Always keep an extra pair of important items such as keys, glasses ready. Do not stress them if they can not find something that can be easily replaced. Instead, calm them down and help them remember only if it is necessary. Remember, if it is not important then do not force it. For things that are truly valuable and a duplicate can not be produced readily you can tag them with small tracking devices which will help you locate them. 

Info-graphic showing how to care for a parent with Alzheimer's disease
Info-graphic showing how to care for a parent with Alzheimer's disease

A book for you - the Alzheimer's caregivers

Understand Alzheimer's: A First-Time Caregiver's Plan to Understand & Prepare for Alzheimer's & Dementia. This is a self-help book published by the Calistoga Press directed towards caregivers.

To have a loved one suffering from Alzheimer's disease is unfortunate but you as the primary caregiver need to stay strong and learn about Alzheimer's disease as much as possible and this is one of the books that will help you in your journey.

It contains all the essential information about Alzheimer's disease and what you as the caregiver will go through as the disease progresses. It contains practical information and advice on how to take care of your loved one. This is a book that I highly recommend to any caregiver who has a loved one suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Disclaimer: This is an affiliate link which means if you buy it from Amazon using the link provided by us we will earn a small commission. It will not cost you any extra but will give us some money which will help us to run this website.

That's all for today!
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