Caregiving and Alzheimer’s

Source: 
SeniorJournal.com
Published: 
11/20/2006

 

SeniorJournal.com

Since November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to address some basic issues dealing with this difficult disease that affects so many people around the globe. During my years working with caregivers, and especially over the last decade, I am often asked how someone can tell if his or her elder loved one has Alzheimer’s. You never want to diagnose this yourself, and I don’t, but you should be aware of the three general phases of Alzheimer’s. Sometimes these phases overlap, but they often progress in this general order:

STAGE ONE

● Difficulty concentrating

● Disorientation as to person/Lack of recognition of self

● Disorientation with time and/or place

● Increased irritability, frustration, and anxiety

● Lack of humor

● Lack of spontaneity

● Loss of memory

● Slight personality and behavior changes

STAGE TWO

● Aphasia

● Changes in appetite

● Difficulty reading, writing, or doing math

● Increased anger

● Muscle twitching

● Novel behavior patterns

● Repetitive movements

● Throwing tantrums

● Wandering or getting lost

STAGE THREE

● Become bedridden

● Become emaciated

● Diminished verbal articulation

● Experience incontinence

● Unable to perform basic daily activities

What Can You Do?

Caregiving is a lot like juggling. First you have two balls in the air (work and family), then three (caregiving), then before you know it six balls are skyward and you can become overwhelmed trying to keep them all afloat.

Try to stay centered and balanced within yourself. Only then can you deal with all of the responsibilities and increased work load and not get angry, frustrated, tired, and/or discouraged.

Even though your elder might be dealing with a loss of competency due to Alzheimer’s, it still behooves us to take care of our fellow human beings. You and your family need to remember who your elder was and all that he or she accomplished in life.

Realize that he or she is still there somewhere deep down inside themselves. It can be challenging to draw that person out, but it can also be very rewarding when it occurs.

If your elder is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, it’s important to keep him or her at home if at all possible. Familiarity and continuity can help delay the most negative impact of Alzheimer’s.

Little things like finding his way to the bathroom will be easier for your elder since he knows where it is. If you move your elder to new surroundings such as an elder care facility, it can dramatically increase his feelings of disorientation and anxiety, and that can increase the negative impact of Alzheimer’s.

It’s also vital to visit your elder as often as possible. This provides him or her with familiar faces and memories and history. It also increases his contact with the outside world and provides positive stimulation.

Go ahead and bring your elder his favorite foods, always taking into account any dietary restrictions. Also bring his favorite entertainment. Sit and talk about the past as well as the present.

Make sure that your elder’s senses are stimulated with such things as music, art, plants, pets, and familiar family memorabilia and/or photos. If at all possible, engage them in activities that made them happy in the past. Keep him involved in the world.

http://www.seniorjournal.com/NEWS/Alzheimers/6-11-20-KnowingTheStages.htm

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