Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's
The unpredictability of Alzheimer’s disease makes an already difficult disease even harder to manage. It’s hard to prepare emotionally, physically and financially when you don’t know what to expect. Every day is different, every person with Alzheimer’s presents differently, and no two caregiver journeys are alike.
If you have a loved one who has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, it's essential to have a firm grasp of what's to come. It is important to have a plan in place when this person's needs eventually evolve.
What to Expect? The Unexpected
Because no experience is the same, there's no What to Expect When You’re Expecting equivalent for Alzheimer’s. The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss, by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins is an excellent resource. It is hard to go about each day without knowing what’s coming, what’s normal and what is cause for concern or further investigation. There’s not even a concrete answer about the disease’s duration: A person can typically live with Alzheimer’s for four to eight years following diagnosis, but some can live up to 20 years after, says the Alzheimer’s Association.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
The Alzheimer’s Association breaks the disease down into three main stages. Your loved one may show middle-stage symptoms one day then signs of late-stage the next, so use these as a broad reference and not a definitive outline:
- Problems coming up with the right word or name
- Trouble remembering names when introduced to new people
- Challenges performing tasks in social or work settings
- Forgetting material that one has just read
- Losing or misplacing a valuable object
- Increasing trouble with planning or organizing
- Forgetfulness of events or about one's personal history
- Feeling moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations
- Being unable to recall personal information, ranging everywhere from address to schools attended
- Confusion about time and location
- The need for help choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion
- Trouble controlling bladder and even bowels
- Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night
- An increased risk of wandering and becoming lost
- Personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions or compulsive, repetitive behavior like hand-wringing or tissue shredding
- Need round-the-clock living assistance with daily activities and personal care
- Lose awareness of recent experiences and surroundings
- Experience changes in physical abilities, including the ability to walk, sit and, eventually, swallow
- Have increasing difficulty communicating
- Become vulnerable to infections, especially pneumonia
Join a Support Group
As you go through the challenging stages and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease with a loved one, drawing on the support and experiences of others can lighten the load and ease the fears and concerns that accompany them. Look for local support groups in your area. There are also many blogs and online groups that allow you to connect with others having similar experiences.
Temper Your Expectations and Tune into Your Emotions
Because it’s hard to pinpoint dementia, many people aren't diagnosed until they're further along in the disease — so you may find your loved one moving more quickly through the middle stage and into later-stage symptoms faster than you anticipated.
However, don’t lose hope: There are many hidden joys amidst the pain of dementia’s unstable nature. Because it’s not always a slow and steady decline but often a roller coaster of extreme ups and downs, you may have days, minutes, or hours of clear language, confirmed remembrances or glimpses of your loved one’s “original” personality shining through. Take those clear moments as the gifts they are, and hold on to them for the days when your worlds are turned upside down by dementia.
Also, be careful not to compare. While it helps to share stories with support group members and swap experiences with friends or family who have witnessed the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, you can’t expect your loved one to move through the stages identically.
Grow Your Village
Perhaps the most critical piece of advice from Day One on preparing for the progression of Alzheimer's disease is "Don't be afraid to ask for help!" When friends or family say ‘If there is anything I can do…’ — take them up on it, and use an online calendar to organize efforts.
Reach out to Professional Home Care
Reaching out for help from a professional caregiver does not mean you are incapable of providing care, or that you’re not already doing enough. As the disease advances, the symptoms become harder to manage, and if your loved one lingers in a stage for many years before reaching the next, endurance is critical. Professional home care aides can provide the respite that you’ll need.
Alzheimer’s patients are vulnerable in many ways, and so you will want to hire caregivers who are trustworthy, compassionate and skilled in dementia care. Visiting Angels Newton/Canton has been providing home care services to Alzheimer’s patients in the Greater Boston area since 2004.
We provide professional caregivers who are certified HHAs or CNAs with specialized training by our CDP certified case managers about how to provide expert home care to Alzheimers’ patients. Our case managers are constantly in touch with our clients for feedback to ensure that our caregivers’ service meets our high standards.
Homecare Aides with Education and Empathy
All Visiting Angels Newton/Canton caregivers undergo a two-part specialized dementia care training during the orientation program. They are required to complete this training before they can begin to work with our clients. After viewing a presentation and reviewing information with the Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) case manager in a Q&A session, they begin a sensory deprivation training. The CDP trainer challenges the caregivers' abilities to see clearly, hear well, use their hands, and function with limited mobility. They are given specific everyday tasks to complete while they are compromised, such as, taking medication from prescription bottles and placing them in the correct compartment in a pill dispenser. The home caregivers have a follow-up session with their trainer to discuss how they felt and solidify the importance of empathy and compassion for clients who have a hearing, vision, and or mobility deficits.
Every caregiver has the support of the entire staff. If a caregiver is having a challenging time with a client and needs further assistance, they call or come into the office for guidance. The case manager will assess the situation, adjust the care plan, and provide as much support as possible to clients, caregivers, and family members.
Does your senior loved-one have Alzheimer's disease? A professional home caregiver can be of great assistance. For more information, please call us at 617-795-2727 for more information.
About Visiting Angels Newton/Canton
Visiting Angels Newton/Canton senior home care agency provides quality in-home care services to seniors and people with disabilities. Countless families have benefited from our dementia care, Alzheimer’s home care, companion care, respite support, transitional aid, and elder home care services in Wellesley, Natick, Newton, Needham, Brookline, Chestnut Hill, Canton, Westwood, Dedham, Watertown, Stoughton, Roslindale, Norwood, and nearby towns. The services provided by Visiting Angels Newton/Canton will be sure to make a positive impact on your loved one’s happiness and quality of life.