Caring for an aging parent is a demanding and exhausting job; and it becomes more complex when it is accompanied by a long-term illness like Dementia or Alzheimer’s. Cognitive and behavioral changes occurring in the personality of an elderly due to Alzheimer’s could be unpredictable and strange to accept at first; and they may also resist to treatment and may also undergo caregiving stress. However, dedicated caregiving, compassion and love can comfort them a lot at the difficulty and lengthy journey of Alzheimer’s.
In case you are a guardian for a parent with Alzheimer’s; the main thing is to initially comprehend is the severity of the illness. In spite of the fact that Alzheimer’s disease is only one kind of dementia, it is the one with the most articulated stages. Alzheimer’s is an advanced condition, which means the severity of the symptoms increases as the time passes.
People with Alzheimer’s usually live up to 4 to 8 years after diagnosis. However, some may live as long as for twenty years. In case you know about the stages of Alzheimer’s it will assist you with recognizing the practices your loved one is exhibiting, helping you to figure out how to address them, and update their essential medical and caregiving consideration. In case you don’t know, here is a quick overview of three major stages of Alzheimer’s given below.
3 Major Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
The brains of people, who later got diagnosed with Dementia or Alzheimer’s started to change a long time before the actual symptoms of the disease occur. This is commonly known as the ‘Pre-Clinical’ phase of a disease. According to the National Institute of Aging, Alzheimer has three stages i.e. Early or Mild Stage, Middle or Moderate Stage and Late or Severe Stage. As suggested by the names, the disease is classified into stages on the basis of the severity of the symptoms.
During the early or moderate stage of Alzheimer’s, the patient can live without much dependence. In fact, they might continue working, travelling, driving and participating in everyday social life.
Yet, the individual may sense that something is weird or different in their behavior. For instance, they may;
- Forget names of people, to whom they are very much familiar or may find it difficult to remember any recent event or occasion.
- Experience issues with numbers.
- Lose the capacity to put together and plan events.
- Experience difficulty in making any kind of list i.e. grocery list etc. or in finding items within the supermarket.
As compared to other stages, Moderate Alzheimer is the stage that lasts longer.
Sometimes, people suffering from Alzheimer’s can stay in this stage for several years. Common symptoms of this stage include;
- Increased memory loss and cognitive decline.
- Difficulty in paying bills and following instructions.
- Trouble in getting dressed.
- Screaking, Kicking and Cursing.
- Becoming restless every now & then and wandering.
This is the last and the most severe stage of the Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals in this last stage regularly requires:
caregiving needs for all day, every day to perform their routine jobs.
- Difficulty in strolling or sitting up without assistance.
- Trouble in swallowing and eating.
- Significant changes in the person’s behavior and overall personality.
Alzheimer’s Care At Home – A Step-by-Step Care Plan to Maintain Quality of Life
As the diseases and its symptoms advances, so will the requirements of your loved one. You can take care of their physical requirements by intently coordinating a care plan with their doctor. Similarly, as significant is your capacity to stay a caregiver as long as possible. Having a professional caregiving service in association with you can make the process much simpler.
- Making Your Home More Secure & Safe
At the point, when an individual progress from the early stage of Alzheimer’s to the moderate phase, you might have to roll out certain improvements inside the home to reduce fall risk. With a great deal of persistence and a little resourcefulness you can give your loved ones with the complete comfort and solace of home, along with an extra layer of safety. When thinking about making your home more secure here are the few things that you may consider doing;
- Assess The Situation: Some areas of your home may become problematics for your parent’s safety and security. Take a closer stroll at your house, at kitchen, garage, lawn, basement, patio etc. to assess those areas. Make sure all the cleaning supplies, chemicals, tools, sharp gadgets etc. are stored safety and cannot be of any harm in any way.
- Prevent Kitchen Catastrophes: You need to ensure that your parent with Alzheimer’s must not be able to turn the stoves on, when you are out of the room or house. Possible options may include install a concealed gas valve or the one with removable knobs. You can also opt for appliances that can automatically turn off in case of emergency. Also scan you dining table and kitchen counter tops, and possible remove any decorative items such as sauce bottles, vases and fake fruits etc.
- Safety by The Numbers: Keep the phone numbers and addresses for emergency very handy for quick response.
- Extinguish Emergency Situations: Keep a constant check on smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and Carbon Monoxide detectors to ensure their adequate functioning.
- Side-Step Bathroom Issues: Use safety stickers to make slick surfaces more safe. Add support or grab bars alongside the bath tubs, toilet seats, shower and near the vanity to prevent fall risks. Also user safety sticker to make the place safer.
- Well-Lit Rooms & Walkways: Make sure the staircase, doorways, entryways, bathrooms and hallways are well-lit; because a light placed strategically can prevent any kind of accident that may occur in the dark.
- Special Considerations: Other important suggestion includes putting off rugs from the hallways and installing latches and lock in all the main doors. Some people with Alzheimer’s might also need bedrooms to outfitted with a toilet.
- Do Your Research.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s does not come naturally. It isn’t spontaneous or instinctive. In fact, sometimes the logical things wrong. For instance, if your loved one with Alzheimer’s is having difficulties in chewing or swallowing, then insisting them to forcefully eat will not help. At this point, you need to learn about the disease, its stages and its treatment and take your loved one to consult a physician and ask for their advice about caregiving. Here are a few things that you may consider;
- Deal Your Loved One with Love & Compassion: You don’t need to be a professional caregiver while taking care of an elderly with dementia. All you need to do is to deal them with love, warmth and compassion.
- Keep A Reality Check: Its completely okay to make mistakes; and it is also okay to fail in predicting the changes in symptom of the disease. Just hold on there, be patient and opt for professional help when you think it’s getting harder on your nerves.
- Memory Challenge Can Only Be Part of the Picture: Their mental states, disease symptoms, behavioral patterns and personality can change slightly to significantly, depending on the severity of the disease.
- Brace Yourself for The Future: According to medical experts; the only thing that is constant and unchangeable with Dementia and Alzheimer’s is ‘Change’. You can expect nothing to remain same within the personality of the patient.
- Find Resources for Coping with Caregiver Stress
During the Moderate and Severe Stage of Alzheimer’s, feeling high levels of stress, confusion and anxiousness are very normal. This basically happens because of the caregiver’s stress. While taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s, you simultaneously need to deal with the grief that approaches you about losing a loved one and their personality. To get some comfort, you can share your notes with social workers that are experienced in working with caregivers. They, in turn could share some coping strategies with you that can help you dealing with the caring needs of your loves ones. Here are some of the thought-starter to begin your though process;
- Never Overlook ‘Me Time’ & Schedule It Regularly: As this disease progresses, so does the caregiving responsibilities, hence it is very important that you take good care of yourself and schedule some me time on daily and weekly basis.
- Take Regular Break from Your Caregiving Duties: It is crucial to avoid burnout situation that may easily occur due to overwhelming responsibilities and demands of caregiving.
- Don’t Row the Boat Alone: Don’t take the entire burden on yourself, and let others help. Seek assistance from your family, friends and third-party professional caregiving services.
- Talk with Your Family & Children About Caregiving
When explaining Alzheimer or Dementia to your children, always be honest and straightforward. Don’t make stories or funny tales to explain it, as it may result in serious issues. Children are very intuitive and they will understand that their aunt, uncle and grandparents are having changed behavior that they may find stranger initially. However, explaining it in the true meaning of a disease can help them understanding it sooner or later. Try to engage and empower them to be part of caregiving process and allow them to help in insignificant tasks. Younger ones can help you doing the daily chore or can help reading the senior magazine etc. In this way, a family with a Dementia parent could be less stressed ones it is openly discussed. If you want to share any ideas with your kids and family about how they should communicate to the loved one with Dementia, then don’t hesitate and go for it;
- Tell them to Go with the Flow: Tell you partners and children that if anything that the elderly say does not make sense, then don’t argue or correct them; rather play along and go with the flow to let them communicable and open to them in future.
- Plan Beforehand: Help them in picking up the topics or suggest the ones that can engage elderly in the conversation too.
- Use Family Activities: Listen to their favorite type of music, watch movies together and try read them something of their choices.
- Have Regular Family Meetings.
Regularly sit down with your family to discuss how caregiving is affecting your family on the whole. Talk about the elderly’s condition with your family and address all the possible difficulties and stress points. Meet with a case manager or a therapist to solve any kind of family grievances in case the impact is severe. To hold a successful meeting, here are the few important points; Here are some important points to hold up a successful meeting;
- Decide on who will participate in caregiving responsibilities.
- Create a meeting agenda beforehand.
- Don’t express personal opinions too much, rather stick to the fact and listen to the care manager or family managers more.
- Follow the meeting with a summary and then share a copy with the interested ones.
- Spend Time with Your Partner & Children.
Caring for an Alzheimer’s patient could instantly become a center of attraction and your family, spouse and children may start feeling excluded. While caregiving an Alzheimer’s parent, you must take time out to schedule family activities. While doing so, you can look up to professional caregiving service or a friend to do a favor to look after the patient on your behalf. You can also plan a fun activity for your loved one and his/her caregiver to make it a special evening for them too.
- Talk Things Through: Shine a light on the factors that may stress relationships by holding a family meeting.
- Create A Family Calendar: A family calendar can help you not just in making important appointments, but also planning fun activities that are focused on family togetherness.
- Find Your Support System: If you have taken the charge of caregiving activities, it does not mean that you are the only caregiver, and the rest of the family members are not responsible in any way. Create a tag team system and let other perform the caregiving duties on your behalf to prevent yourself from exhaustion and burnout.
- Talk Things Through: Avoiding discussion is the worst approach when it comes to caregiving an elderly at home. To avoid stress within your family relationship, regularly hold family meet-ups.
- Know When It’s the Right Time to Bring In Outside Help
Sometime, you may feel that you can take care of your loved one with Alzheimer’s, all by your own self. But, even if you can do this, you don’t have to do this alone. When and if this point of time arrives, you can always look up to professional in-home care services offered by caregivers. In-home caregiving services provide you with many options in daily activities to which you may look up to, such as;
- Light Housekeeping.
- Grocery shopping and/or making meals.
- Medication reminders.
You may also consider Respite Care, which offers you to have some ‘Me-Time’ away from the caregiving responsibilities. Meanwhile, you can relax that your parent will be well-cared when you are away. In such case, Respire Care services can be of great help; as they provide you to return to your caregiving duties with revitalized energy.
- Pay Attention to The Changing Physical Needs of Your Loved Ones
The primary focus of caregiving for an Alzheimer’s patient is mainly towards the problems related to their changing state of mind and memory. However, you must never overlook the fact that they have changing physical needs too; because they are often mistaken or missed for usual behavioral problems. Here are the few things, that requires your keen attention;
- The Ability to Dress Oneself. You need to look after their ability to dress up themselves. If they can’t you must assist them. You also buy clothes that are comfy and easy-to-wear for them; and also does not cause any skin irritation.
- The Ability to Communicate or Even Speak: You need to observe from time to time, their ability to communicate, even if they are communicating in different way, it could be of great help.
- Eating and Swallowing. When problem of eating and swallowing start to occur, pureed food could turn out to be a blessing for the elderlies.
- Maintain Composure
If your loved one is confused or hallucinating, then it is not essential to them right away that something is wrong with them, because this way, agitation and anxiety can be increased. All you need to do is to reassure them you cannot experience what they do, but you believe them and that they are doing perfectly alright. For instance, if they say, it is Christmas, when it’s actually the month of April, resist your urge to correct them. Instead, encourage them to share their memories or any pleasant story from their former Christmas.
- Avoid Upsetting Triggers
If loud music or television goes unnerve with you loved one, make sure and try to keep the volume bearable for them too or try to make them rest in any other part of the house. Point here is to remove triggers that can stimulate confusion or anxiety. Also, being a caregiver, it is your primary responsibility to minimize the agitation and anxiety for your parent with Alzheimer’s.
In Sum, caregiving an elderly/parent with Alzheimer’s at home requires a lot of efforts, but it also bring in a lot of valuable benefits. Aging at their home means allowing them to stay among their people and community that they have formed for themselves through all those years. This helps maintaining a sense of stability, comfort and belonging till the very last. Also, staying home give them a sense of independence. So, if you want to reap all these benefits, you just need to take some important measures, and keep the above mentioned tips in mind to provide better support to your parents throughout their journey.