September is World Alzheimer’s Month. A time when we can recognize and appreciate both those struggling to manage with Alzheimer’s and those who care for them. Because Alzheimer’s disease causes brain cells to degenerate, it slows down cognition; it will inevitably also cause behaviour changes in our loved ones. Here are some tips for caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s:
- Keep things simple. Say or do one thing at a time; very often what gets lost in dementia is the stringing together of sentences or tasks. You can also get them to help, “Let’s walk to the mailbox,” or “Why don’t you help me fold the socks.”
- Give gentle reminders of their basic needs. People with Alzheimer’s often will forget to eat or drink; they have balance issues so require sturdy shoes and space to navigate. They will eventually need assistance with their hygiene and staying on task to shower or wash up.
- Keep in mind that their behavioural changes are caused by their disease. This will require some patience as they may begin to show anger more easily, become fretful and repetitive, act in ways that indicate they feel depressed or sad. Arguing or trying to reason with someone who has dementia is often futile; you are better served to keep your own frustration in check – take a deep breath, count to 10, take a short break if necessary.
- Focus on safety. Having Alzheimer’s will often make a person feel unsafe and vulnerable. Reassuring them that they are safe when they become agitated will help.
- Try to incorporate what brings them comfort. Play their favourite music, bring back TV shows they watched in their childhood, play simple card games, etc.
Living with Alzheimer’s is a difficult and grief-filled road; for both those affected and their caregivers. Learning how to navigate both the cognitive and behavioural changes that accompany the illness will help in processing your own emotions as a caregiver.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s: https://alzheimer.ca/en/Home
To get help if you live in Renfrew County: https://dementiahelp.ca/
Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@tuti_hi