In case Alzheimer's is a concern for yourself or a loved one, your primary health care provider can provide more information and individualized medical advice. The Alzheimer’s Foundation is a great starting point for those who may be dealing with the disease.
In spite of our wishes, some people need a little extra care in their golden years to remain healthy, active, and self-sufficient. It is especially true for elderly patients with Alzheimer's disease, which can affect memory, cognitive skills, and daily function. September is World Alzheimer’s Month, so we thought we’d devote some time to discussing how the disease affects both patients and caregivers. While caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be a challenge, there are some steps you can take to make things easier and simpler. Here are some tips for basic care of elderly Alzheimer’s patients.
Structure and Simplicity for Care Alzheimer's patients
As a general rule, keeping things structured, simple, and easy to follow is the best approach to providing care for a patient dealing with Alzheimer’s. This can take many forms, as each patient is different, but here are some guidelines that should apply to many people in this situation:
- Establishing an effective schedule helps make the most of the day. Try to schedule more involved or challenging activities during the time of day when the patient is most alert. Stick to a routine, as it helps keep the patient calm and grounded, but try to allow some flexibility for spontaneous activities, special needs, or just particularly difficult days.
- Providing simple instructions and consistent support along with a regular and effective schedule also makes things much easier on both the patient and the caregiver. Single steps at a time are most effective for many people dealing with Alzheimer’s.
- Involving the patient in decision-making to a reasonable degree is a wonderful way to preserve some independence, keep them calm, and help engage their remaining cognitive functions. Simple, structured choices are helpful: “Which of these two outfits would you prefer?”; “would you rather take a walk or watch some TV?”.
Reducing distractions is a must when working with people with Alzheimer’s. A TV or radio providing background noise can prevent them from focusing on the task at hand, and that loss of focus can be frustrating for both of you. Reducing or limiting daytime naps plays a role in this. This is because naps can lead to confusion as to what time it is or allow them to confuse daytime and nighttime.
There’s so much more to Alzheimer’s care than just these steps, but they provide a good general outline and a solid foundation. Just remember that every patient is different, so being flexible and patient is a must on the part of the care-giver. For purposes of this article, there’s another component that we do want to explore in a bit more depth, so please keep reading.
Safety for Alzheimer’s Patients and Caregivers
Alzheimer’s affects memory, cognitive functions, and problem solving skills. This affects many basic activities, and can leave a patient more vulnerable to accidents. While every patient and every setting are different and have their own needs, here are some general guidelines for creating a safe environment for both those with Alzheimer’s and those caring for them.
- Minimize fall hazards by removing throw rugs, cords and cables, low-lying furniture, and clutter. Install hand-rails where needed, and if possible try to house the person in an environment with minimal stairs.
- Lock up hazardous items. People with Alzheimer’s often get confused and mistake one object for another, and that can lead to accident and injury. Put sturdy locks on any cabinet, closet, or room containing anything potentially dangerous. This includes sharp objects, firearms, cleaners and chemicals, medications, tools, and anything that uses or can be made to make fire.
- Ensure safe water temperature. Adjust the temperature on the water heater to a safe maximum to help prevent burns and other hot-water related accidents.
- Enforce fire safety precautions. Lock up lighters, matches, and other flammables in a safe place. Ensure that there are working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers readily available, and check both regularly. If the patient smokes, supervise smoking time and secure smoking materials.
- Have a first aid kit, and know how to use it. Self-explanatory and vital in any living space, but especially important when dealing with a patient with Alzheimer’s.
September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day. At Seniors Helping Seniors Nevada, we support the cause and join you all in working towards better treatments for this disease. As we move forward together, we’ll also continue to provide supportive care within the community by helping seniors help each other to get the most out of their golden years.