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Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's Disease

Reviewed by: MySeniorCare Staff
Last Updated: 4/15/2011 1:23:38 PM

When being diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, many elderly people and their family members struggle with how to cope with the road ahead. After all, Alzheimer's disease affects the entire family. Caring for a loved one who is afflicted with this disease takes strength, a positive attitude, and a strong effort from everyone involved.

Have a positive attitude. The first thing that you must have to provide quality care is a positive attitude. All anger and resentment rooted in your past relationship must be put aside at this time. You need to unite as a family and work toward caring for your parent. Get into a positive state of mind. It will be very difficult at times, but you should keep your eye on the goal: caring for your loved one the best way you know how.

Communication. During the progression of Alzheimer's, your parent will have some difficulty communicating. You may see your loved one become more childlike in your discussions. They may have difficulty knowing who you are, or they may confuse you with someone from the past. During this time, you will need to be strong and try to adjust your communication style to theirs.

Disturbing behavior. Often Alzheimer's patients will develop worrisome behaviors such as cursing, urinating in a corner of a room, or refusing to get dressed. Still others like to rummage through things or even hide them. They may also become fixated on certain objects in the house. Dealing with these behaviors is difficult at best. This is a problem that breaks many caregivers.

Meals. As the Alzheimer's progresses, your loved one may begin displaying strange behaviors. For example, he or she may resort to using their fingers instead of using an eating utensil. The Alzheimer's Association gives these recommendations:

  • Dinnertime is dinnertime. Have regular mealtimes each day.
  • Set the table very simply. Patients with Alzheimer's may have difficulty judging the food from the tableware, especially if the tableware is ornately decorated.
  • Have each meal with minimal distractions. Eat without television, radio or a lot of talking.
  • Be flexible. Your loved one may decide they do not like a certain food. Simply adjust to something that they would like to have.
  • Do not serve foods that they cannot bite or chew. This may also cause unintentional choking if the food gets caught in their airway.
  • Don't serve items that are too hot or too cold. An Alzheimer's patient may be unable to judge when this is dangerous to them.

Safety. Wandering and confusion or disorientation is a common problem with Alzheimer's patients. Keeping an eye on your loved one is very important, but there may still be a time that they get away from you.

  • Keep doors locked when inside. Also put locks and chains on the doors higher up than normal. Some patients may not realize that they need to look up to find the lock.
  • Tag their clothes. Write the patient's name, address and phone number on a tag and place it on their back. This can be helpful if the person wanders away and someone else finds them.
  • Lock up danger zones. Put gates and locks around pools, and fence in your backyard with a high fence they cannot see over.

Don't take it personally. As the Alzheimer's disease takes over, the patient may refer to you by another name. They may also forget who you are completely. This can be a difficult thing for a loving family member to cope with. During this time, you have to understand that they are not doing it just to hurt you. It is the process of the disease that is causing these symptoms.

Finally, having a good support system is essential for your welfare as well as your loved one's. Rely on other family members and friends to discuss your concerns with, or to provide you with support when you need it. Remember that support groups are available, as well as other community resources such as churches and social workers who can help you get the assistance you need.

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