If you’ll be caring for someone with Alzheimer's or caring for dementia patients at home, these doctor-recommend tips will help you offer the best care and support.
Each year, more than 16 million Americans care for loved ones affected by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It’s important to learn all the ways to keep both patients and caregivers as safe and healthy as possible.
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, estimated to affect more than 5.5 million Americans, the majority of whom are 65 or older. Further, the percentage of adults diagnosed with Alzheimer’s increases with age—while just 3% of adults aged 65–74 have Alzheimer’s dementia, that number increases to 17% of those aged 75–84 and 32% of those aged 85 and older.
Yet, Alzheimer's disease impacts not only the individual suffering, but also their loved ones.
James Sanderson, D.O., an in-network Clover physician and Medicare Advantage insurer from CarePoint Health in Jersey City, offers these tips as a useful starting point when dealing with a recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
Get familiar with the disease. As a caregiver, it’s crucial to first understand the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and how it progresses. With this vital knowledge at hand, you’ll begin to understand what to expect when caring for someone with the disease. The internet is a great place to turn to for resources about the disease and ways to care for any number of behaviors or symptoms. It can also be helpful to talk to other caregivers in person or through online support groups. Learning stress management techniques for both the patient and yourself can be critical.
Take necessary safety precautions. Because people with Alzheimer’s can experience impaired judgement and problem solving, it is crucial to anticipate things that may become hazards and evaluate the individual’s living space. This may include moving extension cords, removing clutter, installing locks on cabinets and grab bars, and moving anything flammable (e.g., matches and lighters) or poisonous (e.g., cleaning supplies) to a secure area of the home.
Implement a routine. Establishing a daily routine that starts in the morning can allow you to conquer the tasks that require the most attention while the person is most refreshed, according to the Mayo Clinic. Routines can also reduce frustration, facilitate repetition and ease, and establish an orderly schedule to shape the day.
Find a support system. Caring for anyone with a chronic disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia is a very big responsibility, so it’s important to seek additional support. Consider reaching out to family members, friends, members of the community, a charitable organization, or even a paid helper. Remember to take time for yourself to disconnect and maintain your own health. Even if you’re a full-time caregiver, it’s important to exercise, eat well, and get adequate sleep to make sure you can provide the best care possible for your loved one.
If your loved one seems to be displaying signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia, be sure to talk to their primary care doctor and ask if a referral to a neurologist may be necessary for specialized diagnosis and treatment of this brain disease.
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