According to the Alzheimer’s Association, around five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. Additionally, Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US.
Alzheimer’s doesn’t just take a toll on the person suffering, it also takes a toll on the victim’s surrounding family members and friends. Luckily, if your parent is suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, there are things you can do to make their life and your life easier.
Check out this guide to discover how to help a loved one who is dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
1. Hire a Caregiver
Getting Alzheimer’s help at home is one of the best things you can do for a parent who is suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Being the sole caregiver for your parent can be both mentally and physically exhausting. Plus, if you work a full-time job, it’s often not feasible. A caregiver can help take the burden off of having to look after your parent 24/7.
Hiring a caregiver provides a lot more benefits, including:
- Offering emotional support to your parent
- Helping with medication management
- Assisting with personal hygiene
- Preventing fall-related injuries
When hiring a caregiver, make sure you select one has had experience working with Alzheimer’s patient. There are a lot of caregiving agencies that you can contact who can connect you with the perfect caregiver.
2. Make Their Home Safer
If your parent is transitioning from a mild form of dementia to a more moderate form of dementia, then you may need to make some changes in their home to reduce their risk of falling.
First things first, you should go through the entire home and make sure that chemicals, cleaning supplies, tools, and other hazards are stored safely away. In the kitchen, you may want to install appliances that shut off automatically.
Here are some other ways you can make your loved one’s home safe:
- Install a walk-in shower or bathtub
- Make sure emergency phone numbers and addresses are in a handy location
- Make sure rooms and walkways are well-lit
- Regularly check fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors, and smoke detectors
If your loved one is living alone in a big house, you may also want to consider helping them downsize to a smaller home, preferably one without stairs.
3. Set Up a Schedule
Establishing a routine can help your loved one feel more stable and less stressed out.
Try to set up a schedule so that your parent is:
- Waking up and going to bed at the same time every day
- Taking their medications at the same time every day
- Eating their meals at the same time every day
- Showering/bathing at the same time every day
If you hire a caregiver, make sure they’re aware of your loved one’s schedule. This routine will help your parent become familiar with what needs to be done each day.
4. Prioritize Physical Activity
While there are limited studies in regards to whether or not physical activity can slow down Alzheimer’s, we do know for certain that physical activity can help those with Alzheimer’s feel better.
Exercise should be a regular part of your parent’s routine. However, because those with Alzheimer’s and dementia are prone to wandering, your parent’s exercise likely needs to be supervised.
If you hire a caregiver, encourage them to take daily walks with your parent. Or, if your parent is up for it, you can even hire them a personal trainer to come to their house for a workout.
5. Know How to Deal With Mood Swings
One of the toughest things about Alzheimer’s is that it doesn’t just cause memory loss, it can also cause personality changes. People who were once calm and rational can become prone to anger, mood swings, and outbursts.
Here are some tips to keep in mind to help you manage your loved one’s behavior and personality changes:
- Don’t argue or try to reason with your loved one
- Let them know that they’re safe and you’re there to help them
- Try to distract the person (you can use things like music, television, or, ask them to help you with a simple task)
- Focus on your parent’s feelings rather than their words
- Keep things simple by asking one thing at a time (oftentimes, confusion can lead to outbursts)
- Use humor when you can
If your parent is suffering from severe behavioral symptoms, such as hitting, biting, or hallucinating, then you should talk to their doctor. There are medications available to help treat these behavioral symptoms.
6. Know How to Cope With Caregiver Stress
In order to care for your parent the best you can, you need to make sure you’re caring for yourself. Stress and burnout are issues that many caregivers deal with, so it’s important that you have coping mechanisms in place.
Here are some things you can do to deal with your stress:
- Schedule “me time”
- Take regular breaks to avoid caregiver burnout (hire a part-time caregiver, or have family members pitch in with the caregiving)
- Seek support from medical professionals
It’s also very important that your family members are aware of everything that’s going on with your parent. If you have children, sit them down and explain the disease in a way that they’ll understand.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Are You Ready to Help Your Loved One?
Now that you know how to help a loved one with Alzheimer’s and dementia, it’s time to put these tips into action. These tips should make your life and your parent’s life easier.
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