Caring for an aging loved one is always difficult, but challenges increase when that person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This disease causes a deterioration of the brain over time, and that sometimes makes behaviors unpredictable. Some seniors might forget who their loved ones are, lash out or even resist care.
Part of learning how to cope with the changes a senior with Alzheimer’s is going through includes understanding the disease itself. Most individuals go through three very distinct stages.
Mild Alzheimer’s –
This stage includes mild to moderate changes in memory and personality. Some seniors have a difficult time independently managing some household tasks as a result. For instance, they might more consistently forget to pay bills or often leave the burner on after preparing meals. Alzheimer’s is not always diagnosed in this stage, but seniors who do receive a diagnosis at this time have the most treatment options available to them.
Moderate Alzheimer’s –
This is when memory loss and confusion become more common and identifiable. Seniors might have difficultly remembering frequently used directions, following a simple recipe or understanding how to button a shirt or put on pants. Wandering, restlessness and sundowner’s are also common during this stage. Seniors sometimes feel threatened by or suspicious of loved ones and might even act out aggressively against these people.
Late Alzheimer’s –
In this stage, seniors are completely dependent upon others. They often cannot get out of bed, eat independently, communicate or even recognize their spouse or children. Weight loss, incontinence and the loss of use of limbs are very common. This is a stage where around the clock care is essential.
As a senior progresses through the various stages of Alzheimer’s, their needs change. In the earliest stages, a person might only need part-time assistance with a few activities of daily living. By late stage Alzheimer’s, a senior is completely dependent upon others for all care needs. As a primary caregiver, it is important to understand this and realize that as needs change, you may need more support too. Putting a strategy in place early is the best way to navigate through the various challenges and help senior loved ones to continue aging in place safely and comfortably.
The Changing Demands of Alzheimer’s
First, understand that caregiver demands will change with time. This is something to prepare for both mentally and physically. Where as it might be easy to independently manage your loved one’s needs in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, respite care might be beneficial when the moderate stage arrives. In late stage Alzheimer’s, around the clock in home care and possibly even in home health services are often beneficial.
Providing Care May Not Come Naturally
Next, realize that caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is not always something that comes naturally. Providing this type of care requires a very specific skill set and personality. Not all individuals are cut out for the task. To gain the necessary skills, ask the senior’s physician for advice, join a support group for help or talk to a trusted religious leader or therapist to work through your concerns. Also, know that it is okay to admit if you are not capable of managing this type of care on your own. Asking other family members for help or calling on a professional in home care provider is sometimes the best way to ensure your loved one’s needs are met without putting too much burden on yourself.
Meeting Your Own Needs
Finally, realize that your own needs matter too. Caring for an aging loved one is often all-consuming. It is important to maintain your own identity too. Realize that other things in your life are also important including your spouse, children, job, medical needs and even social life. Make time to attend to these other needs. Whether it’s a few hours a day or a single night a week, take time off with the help of family, friends or professional Alzheimer’s caregivers. Use this time to focus on yourself. This will help you feel more rounded and avoid the many negative effects associated with caregiver burnout.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is both rewarding and challenging. If you are struggling to find balance or understand the most effective strategies for providing care, Salus Homecare San Gabriel Valley is here to help. Contact us anytime to learn more or schedule a free, no obligation in home evaluation for your aging loved one.
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