There are five important steps you can take if you are the care giver for a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease.   Each person with Alzheimer’s Disease experiences its symptoms in their own unique way; therefore, your techniques as the care giver also need to vary based on the circumstances.

Assess independence:   In the early stages of the disease, your loved one may still be able to independently perform many of their daily tasks; however, as the disease progresses, the ability to perform these tasks will become more difficult.   Your loved one will have feelings of frustration, agitation and even aggression as they lose the ability to perform once routine tasks such as eating, bathing, grooming, and dressing.    You can help by involving your loved one in these tasks as much as possible; by reassessing the level of assistance that is required each day; and by striving for a balance between periods of rest and activity so as to not over tax your loved one.

Create a safe environment:   Alzheimer’s Disease impairs judgment and problem-solving skills.   You should modify the home environment to help your loved one maneuver within the home as easily and safely as possible.   Remove throw rugs, extension cords and any clutter that can cause your loved one to trip and fall.   Remove electrical appliances from the bathroom and set the temperature on the water heater no higher than 120° F.   Make sure that all outside doors and entrances to stairways are locked and secure.

Adjust your expectations:   It is important to have realistic expectations of your loved one’s abilities and behavior.  Allow more time to accomplish everyday care giving tasks.   Simplify the tasks and provide instructions one step at a time.   Try not to worry about the way things should be done.   If no danger results from your loved one’s actions, refrain from correcting them.   Try to stay flexible.   If your loved one refuses to do something, back off and try again later using a different approach.   You can be more adaptable than someone with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Limit distractions:    Along with a sense of routine, a serene environment can reduce some behavior problems.   Noise, large groups of people, changes in surroundings or pressure to perform tasks can cause anxiety and further compromise your loved one’s ability to think clearly. You can help by shutting off the television and limiting background noise, by encouraging visitors to call before they visit, and by limiting the number of people at gatherings so that your loved one does not feel overwhelmed.

Promote communication:    Your loved one’s ability to use language to communicate decreases as the disease progresses.   Behavior often becomes the method by which people with Alzheimer’s Disease communicate their feelings and needs.  Being unable to communicate can be frustrating for your loved one and can lead to agitation and aggression.   You can help by being patient when your loved one acts out and try to understand what your loved one may be feeling.

On Wednesday, Joe suggests some ideas for the wellbeing of those providing care for a loved one in “Care For The Care Giver”.