Four Minute Read

Anyone who has been affected by memory-loss conditions knows that caring for someone with a mental affliction is no easy feat. Caring for someone with neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, can devour all your time and energy. While there are many difficulties that coincide with this disease, truly understanding what Alzheimer’s is and how it can affect people can give caregivers better insight into caring for loved ones.

For those who have never encountered Alzheimer’s disease, it can be difficult to comprehend, not to mention care for. To begin, it is important to understand the difference between the terms Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Dementia is actually the term used to describe a variety of memory-loss and other neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s Diseases. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Disease is the number one cause of Dementia.

Think back on a moment when you misplaced something important – your keys, wallet, phone etc. No matter how hard you try, you cannot remember where you put it down! Now, try imagining that feeling expanded across nearly every aspect of your life – people, places, things, events. This is the devastating effect of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease include planning or problem-solving difficulties, trouble completing ordinary tasks, confusion regarding both time and place, withdrawal from social activities, misplacing common household items and changes in personality. An individual may also be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease if they have difficulty planning simple activities, if they struggle with time management, have trouble speaking words and writing, or experience significant mood changes. As a caregiver, it is imperative to take these symptoms into account in order to cope with the challenges of this disease.

"It is important to talk to patients about their wishes, regarding their long term goals of care whle they still have the cognitive ability to participate in making those decisions," says Dr. Hitesh Patel, MD. a physician with MemorialCare Medical Group who specializes in Neurology.

One of the primary negative effects of Alzheimer’s Disease is loss of communication skills. This can be extremely challenging for family caregivers who receive the brunt of the communication breakdowns. If your loved one cannot tell you how he or she is feeling, it can be frustrating to try to provide them with the best care possible.

Tips and Tricks for Caregivers

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends that people who consider themselves caregivers should take the following steps in the caring process.

  • Try not to take behaviors or attitudes personally: Forgetting where you put your keys is one thing, but forgetting to take your medicine, pay your bills or take a shower is life-altering. Individuals affected by this disease cannot pick and choose which things they remember and which they forget. As a caregiver, it is important to not take their short-tempered or irritable attitudes to heart. The next time you feel impatient or frustrated with your family member or loved one when they forget your birthday, remember that it is a sign of the disease taking hold, and try not to take their behaviors too personally.
  • Remain patient and calm: Even for the most gentle-hearted souls, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease can be vexing. As frustrating as it can seem, it is important that you try your best not to visibly get upset. Try to remain positive and reassuring as best you can and take breaks as often as you need to. On especially bad days, try to find some relaxing activities for the two of you to do together. Not only will it help calm your family member, but it will give you a moment of peace as well.
  • Explore pain as a trigger: Aggressive behavior can be very common among individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease. The anger may be verbal, such as shouting or screaming, or physical, such as hitting or pushing. As a family caregiver, your best option is to quickly identify the problem and fix it as soon as possible. Without the ability to communicate properly, a person affected by Alzheimer’s Disease may be suffering from pain without being able to express it. Before you go through all the options, check to see if some kind of pain activated the irritated behavior. Pain can be an unclear trigger for irrational behavior.
  • Don’t argue or try to convince: Even without a neurological disorder, forgetfulness can be exasperating. A person living with this disease may have trouble recognizing people, places or things. They may forget their closest friends or their grandchildren, and have trouble using dinner utensils for a time. It is imperative to remember to stay calm and think about how you will respond to these occurrences.

Caregivers and family members should not try to argue with or convince someone with Alzheimer’s Disease, because it will end with poor results. Instead, try repetitive actions, suggestions and friendly reminders in order to work on mental stimulation. With any luck, you will feel less aggravated because you remained calm.

As a caregiver, following these rules helps people cope with the disease as well as properly care for someone who has been diagnosed.

Keep Your Health in Mind

Even though caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s Disease can be a full-time job, it is essential that you stay on top of your physical and mental health as well. Caregivers often find themselves suddenly burdened with the responsibilities of their afflicted loved one and forget to take time for themselves. If you have been affected by Alzheimer’s Disease or other memory-loss conditions in some way, feel free to contact MemorialCare for additional tips on how to best cope with this condition.

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