At some point in your life you might find yourself becoming a caregiver to someone near and dear to you. Whether it is a parent, grandparent or other loved one, becoming a caregiver may happen overnight or may occur gradually over time. If your loved one battles Alzheimer’s or another cognitive impairment, your role as a caregiver becomes unique and slightly more challenging than caring for those without memory loss. Alzheimer’s and other dementia related diseases affect a person’s brain in a way in which they will lose memory, perception, reasoning skills and concentration. Eventually the disease will take away a person’s ability to communicate and can even cause behavior and personality changes. As a caregiver this can be challenging in that on top of caring for your loved one’s basic needs, you have to learn how to navigate personality differences and their inability to remember things on a day to day basis. So what are some things you as a caregiver can do to help provide the best possible care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s?
- Be patient: First and foremost you have to remember that the disease is causing changes to your loved one’s memory, personality and behavior, they are not choosing to do so. Try and be as patient as possible in your daily care for them.
- Create and stick to a routine: Having a daily routine will not only help you, but it will provide a sense of comfort to your loved one. Too much day-to-day change causes confusion for your loved one because they cannot remember, and too much confusion can lead to worry.
- Provide brain food at meals: Many studies have shown that certain foods are good for the brain and can help slow down Alzheimer’s or other dementia disorders. Including these foods in your loved one’s daily diet not only benefits their brain, but it also is healthy for the whole body. To see ideas on brain foods click here.
- Activities: Both cognitive and physical activities should be part of your loved one’s daily routine. Both promote a healthy lifestyle and independence. Cognitive activities help stimulate different areas of the brain and can help keep the mind sharp. Activities such as word puzzles, matching games, reading and reminiscing all help give your loved one’s brain a workout. Physical activities such as watering the plants, dancing or taking strolls through the garden all keep your loved one in fit condition.
- Learn your loved one’s body language: As Alzheimer’s progresses, your loved one will lose the ability to communicate through words. They will also have difficulty describing what they are thinking or feeling, so to make sure they are not in pain or feeling ill, learn their way of communication. That may be through body language, facial expressions or changes in eating or sleeping habits.
- Educate yourself on the disease: The more you know, the better care you can provide. Educate yourself on Alzheimer’s so that you will have a better understanding of the stages your loved one will go through. Knowing all aspects of the disease will help you prepare a care plan for your loved one.
- Ask for help: Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be very stressful and is a full time job. Never be afraid to ask for help. The Alzheimer’s Association has a variety of support groups that can help you find your stride in caring for your loved one.
- Don’t forget to care for yourself: Studies show that the stress of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can take a toll on the caregiver’s health. Make sure you are getting the right amount of sleep, eating good food and taking some time to relax. Ask some of your family members to help care for your loved one and take a day for yourself. You are just as important as your loved one.