Your Guide to Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease
“Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory and behavior. Symptoms include confusion, memory loss, and behavior changes. Some people with AD have swallowing problems.”
About 6.5 million people in the United States live with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Some of these individuals rely on their caregivers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that about
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive illness, and caregiver responsibilities typically increase as the disease advances.
Setting up a care plan early is important because of the responsibilities involved.
Here is how to prepare for the future.
- Discuss your loved one’s wishes in the early stages of the disease. This allows them to express their end-of-life care wishes, such as the type of medical treatments they want.
- Get permission to speak with their healthcare team. Before AD progresses, complete a HIPAA authorization form. This allows you to discuss a loved one’s medical history with their doctors.
- Consider legal matters. You’ll need authorization to make medical decisions on their behalf. Contact a family lawyer for assistance with creating a medical power of attorney. Also talk with your loved one about advance care directives, which outline their wishes in the event of a medical emergency. For example, it may cover how they feel about life support.
- Consider financial matters. You can also become their financial power of attorney. This allows you to make financial decisions on their behalf. Also, read their insurance policies to understand their coverage (health, life, supplemental care, etc.). It would help to also discuss their funeral and burial wishes.
The type of care one receives depends on the severity of their symptoms. Types of care available for AD include:
- In-home care. The individual can receive care in a familiar environment. Family members or friends can provide this care or use in-home care options like companion services and home health aides.
- Adult day centers. Some caregivers work outside of the home. In these cases, adult day centers can provide a safe and active environment for their loved ones. Some centers provide structured activities, as well as transportation and meals.
- Long-term care. As the disease progresses, some individuals require long-term care. This includes care in a nursing home or an assisted living community. Both options offer 24-hour care or assistance.
- Respite care. This is short-term relief for caregivers. The length varies but can range from 1 day to several weeks.
- Hospice care. This occurs when a loved one approaches the end of their life. This care can take place in their home or at a long-term care facility. Hospice provides comfort and care in a person’s last months of life.
The cost of Alzheimer’s care varies. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, estimated costs for various services may include:
- home health aide: $28 per hour
- adult day centers: $80 per day
- long-term facility: $4,000+ per month
Some costs can be covered by health insurance. Talk to your loved one about any supplemental plans that might be available to help with the out-of-pocket costs.
Check with your insurance provider to understand their benefits.
Resources for financial support for Alzheimer’s care
There are a few things to know about caring for someone with AD.
1. Educate yourself
Learn about your loved one’s condition. This can improve communication with your loved one, and it can help you cope with their changing behavior. Attend medical appointments and ask questions.
2. Set a daily routine
Simple daily routines can help a loved one deal with memory loss. For example, aim for them to get dressed, eat and bathe at a certain time each day.
3. Keep them physically active
Being active and exercising regularly can slow cognitive changes. Movement exercises the joints, muscles, and heart too. This can improve their mood — and yours.
4. Keep them mentally active
Mental activity helps slow cognitive changes. If possible, let your loved one do some of the work. They do household chores, including bathing, brushing teeth, and doing other things.
You can encourage reading and other activities.
5. Promote nutritious eating
Your loved one might lose interest in food, but it’s important to maintain balanced nutrition when possible. This slows cognitive changes as well.
When preparing meals, include foods with cognitive benefits. These include:
- Green vegetables.
- The berries are large.
- whole grains
- Red meat.
- There is sugar.
- Fried foods.
6. Promote good hygiene and grooming
Maintaining hygiene and grooming habits can help with low self-esteem. This includes a daily routine.
- They are brushing their teeth.
- They are combing their hair.
They might feel better if they feel good about their appearance.
7. Be patient
It might take them longer to finish certain tasks. Try to be patient and not get frustrated.
It can be upsetting or embarrassing to not be able to care for yourself. You can maintain their dignity by respecting their comfort level. Allow them to bathe or shower alone if it is safe.
Tips for communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s disease
- Do keep the instructions short and simple.
- Give them time to process information.
- If necessary, repeat instructions.
- Referring conversations to avoid arguments is a good way to do it.
- Use humor to break the tension.
- Do learn their body language.
- “Don’t argue or get upset. If necessary, leave the room.”
- “Don’t insist they complete a task.”
- “Don’t take their actions personally. AD can affect moods.”
- “Don’t be mean to them.”
- “Don’t shout.”
- “Don’t ask long questions. Give options.”
8. Be prepared for sundowning
Sundowning refers to restlessness, irritability, and confusion that worsens in the late afternoon and early evening hours.
Your loved one might wander around the house at night. sundowning can be challenging for caregivers.
To manage sundowning, you should have a predictable sleep routine. You can increase their activity during the day and limit their daytime napping.
9. Ensure the home is safe
If you care for a loved one at home, you should take precautions to prevent accidents. For example:
- Place carpet or grip strips on stairs.
- Place the door knobs on the cabinet doors.
- Place covers over electrical outlets.
- Remove small rugs.
- The shower has handrails and mats.
Depending on the severity of their cognitive symptoms, you may not want to allow them to cook by themselves or leave them unattended in the shower or tub.
10. Engage in self-care
It is important to take care of yourself as well. Caregiving can be tiring. Take advantage of respite care if you can.
Try to maintain a balanced diet and get plenty of physical activity. Enjoy the fresh air and walk. Get involved in activities that make you happy.
You can look into local support groups.
“Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive illness that can be experienced in different ways.”
Some people are caregivers for a short time, while others provide long-term care. It is important to have a plan for medical care and financial matters.