Alzheimer’s is one of the most difficult diseases with which patients, caregivers, and families can cope. It is the most common form of dementia, affects memory and intellectual abilities, and interferes with everyday life. It gradually appears as a person ages, causes steady decline, and is incurable. It is not a normal part of aging!
What disease is it? It’s Alzheimer’s
The Alzheimer’s Association highly recommends early detection, and has prepared a checklist of ten warning signs. The worksheet can be downloaded, completed, and taken to a physician’s appointment. It is not a substitute for a professional opinion!
Ten Warning Signs from the Alzheimer’s Association:
- memory loss that interrupts daily life
- challenges in planning or solving problems
- difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
- confusion regarding time or place
- trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- new problems using words while speaking or writing
- misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- decreased or poor judgment
- withdrawal from work or social activities
- changes in mood and personality
Alzheimer’s causes a progressive deterioration of brain cells affecting a person’s feelings and actions. It requires patience and endurance for the long-haul. Coping skills need to be learned and applied by all. As caretakers, family members, and close friends learn and apply coping skills they will directly or indirectly affect the comfort, security, and peace of mind of their loved one.
17 Coping Tips That Help!
- Maintain a calm and consistent environment. Avoid loud or distracting noises and bright or flashing lights!
- Be aware of personal comfort in regards to hunger, thirst, pain, fatigue, infections, skin irritations, constipation, full bladder, and comfortable room temperature.
- Provide a measure of comfort and security with a picture or two of a loved one, a soft cuddly teddy bear, or some other prized possession or memento.
- Use kind, loving, non-confrontational tones of voice, body language, touches, eye contact, and facial expressions.
- Encourage friendly, light, two-way conversation. Do not get pushy or irritated!
- Recognize that your loved one is not being hateful, mean, or ornery, but that his or her attitude, tone of voice, behavior, or body language is a symptom of the disease! It is not a personal attack!
- Alzheimer’s patients often get stuck on a subject or issue resulting in frustrations for all. Be patient, supportive, and flexible. Avoid arguing or being confrontational. Try to redirect your loved one’s attention with love, kindness, and another activity!
- Remember that medications can also exacerbate Alzheimer’s symptoms and can be the cause of other behavioral symptoms or issues.
- Acknowledge your loved one’s desires and concerns. Try to be as accommodating as possible.
- Remember who the Alzheimer’s patient was, try to overcome the stigma of the disease, and help him or her to maintain dignity. Be respectful.
- Activity is stimulating, but it is also exhausting. Plan activities early in the day and provide short adequate periods of rest!
- Help the Alzheimer’s patient stay involved in life, decision making, exercise, and social activities.
- Be mindful of consistency in routine in dressing, bathing, meals, activities, and bedtime.
- Everyone needs support. Caregivers especially need support! Share your experiences with others.
- Learn caregiving techniques specifically for Alzheimer’s patients.
- Educate yourself about Alzheimer’s; learn about the symptoms, stages, medication and treatment options, support groups, and resources. Ask questions!
- Avoid burnout; take time for yourself to recoup and regroup!
Medical technology and research are constantly updating ways, techniques, and skills to help Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. Be alert to medical advancements. Below is a list of organizations that provide information and assistance.