A guest post by Vee Cecil a personal trainer and wellness blogger
Four Tips for Alzheimer’s Patient Caregivers
It’s no small feat: caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease will change both your life and theirs. It is a noble and selfless undertaking, but it does come with many challenges. While everyone’s obstacles will be unique, here are a few tips to make your shared experience a positive one:
Study up and know what to expect from the disease. The mere act of being informed about Alzheimer’s disease and the symptoms that result from it can make all the difference. Depending on the lucidity of your patient, you can even ask him or her if there are any specific issues (perhaps there is an everyday item that always seems to get lost). Make your patient part of the conversation, and see if you can come up with a collaborative plan to make things easier. This way, your patient won’t view you as someone barging in barking orders, and instead, will view you as a helper.
Keep your patient active. Alzheimer’s often causes a person to withdraw both socially and physically. Encourage continued participation in enjoyed activities, but keep in mind that you might need to make adjustments. For example, many Alzheimer’s patients find large groups to be overwhelming, so start small. If he or she remains resistant, make the outing your idea. Once they are actually engaged in the activity, patients will often relax and remember what they once loved about it.
Make hygiene a priority. Maintaining personal hygiene is a common obstacle for those with dementia. Some merely forget to bathe, while others may have grown fearful over the temperature or depth of the water. If you start to see problems, again, ask your patient what the problem is and see if you can come to a collaborative solution. Make the bathing experience more enjoyable with special scents, or turn it into a pampering session by including a scalp massage during the shampooing process. Be willing to make compromises; if you can negotiate a daily shower but hair-washing only two or three times a week, take it as a win.
Make sure communication is clear and respectful. Use short sentences and simple words, but don’t speak down to your patient or treat him or her like a child. Make eye contact and minimize distractions (like the television) so that you can both focus on the conversation. Be patient when waiting for a response, but if you see them struggle with a word or phrase, gently offer guidance. Try to stay positive, and be open to your patient’s concerns and/or solutions.
Becoming a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s can be draining, so don’t hesitate to ask for help. This might mean getting a support dog, joining a support group, or even just asking a family member for a little extra help. Remember that your efforts are truly enriching the life of another, and that means that your own well-being is just as important.
Vee Cecil is a personal trainer and Kentucky native who is passionate about personal health and well-being. She writes about wellness on her blog while enjoying life with her husband and two children.