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How To Care For Someone With Alzheimer Disease

Ten Tips For Communicating With A Person With Dementia

4 Tips in Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s

We arenât born knowing how to communicate with a person with dementiaâbut we can learn. Improving your communication skills will help make caregiving less stressful and will likely improve the quality of your relationship with your loved one. Good communication skills will also enhance your ability to handle the difficult behavior you may encounter as you care for a person with a dementing illness.

  • Set a positive mood for interaction. Your attitude and body language communicate your feelings and thoughts more strongly than your words do. Set a positive mood by speaking to your loved one in a pleasant and respectful manner. Use facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical touch to help convey your message and show your feelings of affection.
  • Get the personâs attention. Limit distractions and noiseâturn off the radio or TV, close the curtains or shut the door, or move to quieter surroundings. Before speaking, make sure you have her attention address her by name, identify yourself by name and relation, and use nonverbal cues and touch to help keep her focused. If she is seated, get down to her level and maintain eye contact.
  • Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart. Be patient in waiting for your loved oneâs reply. If she is struggling for an answer, itâs okay to suggest words. Watch for nonverbal cues and body language, and respond appropriately. Always strive to listen for the meaning and feelings that underlie the words.
  • Ask Questions When You Have Them

    Dont hesitate to ask questions or speak up when you dont understand something. Youll likely be communicating with several health care professionals about the individual with Alzheimers you are taking care of. Make sure those providers understand your role and the challenges you face. Let them know about new challenges or changes in behaviors or health of the person with Alzheimers disease.

    Assemble Their Medical Team And Map Out What Their Ongoing Medical Care Will Look Like

    A diagnosis of Alzheimers disease will involve use of medications, scheduled and consistent visits with physiciansideally including a dedicated memory specialistand frequent re-evaluation of medical, physical, and psychosocial needs, Dr. Porter explains.

    Someone with Alzheimers may work with experts of the following medical specialities:

    • A geriatrician, who is a medical doctor who works with older adults
    • A geriatric psychiatrist or psychologist, who specializes in mental and emotional problems of older adults who have problems with memory and thinking, and/or in the mental health needs of the elderly and their families
    • A neurologist, a physician who focuses on abnormalities of the brain and central nervous system and can conduct in-depth neurological evaluations and provide specific diagnoses of cognitive disorders
    • A neuropsychologist, who can perform tests of memory and thinking to determine a persons specific impairments and how they may impact daily functioning

    You may not need to or choose to work with all of these types of medical providers, but it can be helpful to have a few names of experts youre interested in working with from various fields ready as the persons condition shifts or progresses.

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    Repetitive Speech Or Actions

    People with dementia will often repeat a word, statement, question, or activity over and over. While this type of behavior is usually harmless for the person with dementia, it can be annoying and stressful to caregivers. Sometimes the behavior is triggered by anxiety, boredom, fear, or environmental factors.

    • Provide plenty of reassurance and comfort, both in words and in touch.
    • Try distracting with a snack or activity.
    • Avoid reminding them that they just asked the same question. Try ignoring the behavior or question, and instead try refocusing the person into an activity such as singing or âhelpingâ you with a chore.
    • Donât discuss plans with a confused person until immediately prior to an event.
    • You may want to try placing a sign on the kitchen table, such as, âDinner is at 6:30â or âLois comes home at 5:00â to remove anxiety and uncertainty about anticipated events.
    • Learn to recognize certain behaviors. An agitated state or pulling at clothing, for example, could indicate a need to use the bathroom.

    The Difficult Toll Alzheimer’s Takes On Family Caregivers

    How to Help Care for Someone with Alzheimer

    And among certain populations and ethnicities, its part of the culture for caregiving to happen at home by loved ones rather than turning to formal care. These people may be more likely to avoid or delay seeking caregiving help or residential care even though the care they are providing is a major burden, Krishnan says.

    The bottom line is that being a caregiver of someone with Alzheimers disease is difficult in any capacity. And there are many additional challenges that Alzheimers caregivers commonly face that make the task even more difficult.

    So, its probably not surprising that being under too much stress, the burden of caregiving can lead to depression, anger at the person with dementia, social withdrawal, anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability, and both physical and mental health problems. Thats why its so important that caregivers recognize that there are resources they can turn to when they need help.

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    Coping With Changes In Behavior And Personality

    As well as changes in communication during the middle stages of dementia, troubling behavior and personality changes can also occur. These behaviors include aggressiveness, wandering, hallucinations, and eating or sleeping difficulties that can be distressing to witness and make your role as caregiver even more difficult.

    Often, these behavioral issues are triggered or exacerbated by your loved ones inability to deal with stress, their frustrated attempts to communicate, or their environment. By making some simple changes, you can help ease your loved ones stress and improve their well-being, along with your own caregiving experience.

    Dont Neglect Your Own Needs

    By always focusing so diligently on your loved ones needs throughout the progression of their dementia, its easy to fall into the trap of neglecting your own welfare. If youre not getting the physical and emotional support you need, you wont be able to provide the best level of care, and youre more likely to become overwhelmed and suffer burnout.

    Plan for your own care. Visit your doctor for regular checkups and pay attention to the signs and symptoms of excessive stress. Its easy to abandon the people and activities you love when youre mired in caregiving, but you risk your health and peace of mind by doing so. Take time away from caregiving to maintain friendships, social contacts, and professional networks, and pursue the hobbies and interests that bring you joy.

    Caregiver support

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    Dementia Causes Loss Of Cognitive And Behavioral Function

    Dementia is the term used to describe the loss of both cognitive and behavioral functions, typically in the elderly. It can impact not just the ability to remember, reason, and think, but also things like problem-solving capability, visual perception, ability to manage ones own life, and even behavior and personality due to lack of control on emotions. While some amount of nerve loss in the brain is normal as one grows older, if you have dementia this happens at a far greater rate and to a greater extent.2

    Caregiving In The Early Stages Of Alzheimers Or Dementia

    Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease

    In the early stages of Alzheimers disease or another type of dementia, your loved one may not need much caregiving assistance. Rather, your role initially may be to help them come to terms with their diagnosis, plan for the future, and stay as active, healthy, and engaged as possible.

    Accept the diagnosis. Accepting a dementia diagnosis can be just as difficult for family members as it for the patient. Allow yourself and your loved one time to process the news, transition to the new situation, and grieve your losses. But dont let denial prevent you from seeking early intervention.

    Deal with conflicting emotions. Feelings of anger, frustration, disbelief, grief, denial, and fear are common in the early stages of Alzheimers or dementiafor both the patient and you, the caregiver. Let your loved one express what theyre feeling and encourage them to continue pursuing activities that add meaning and purpose to their life. To deal with your own fears, doubts, and sadness, find others you can confide in.

    Make use of available resources. There are a wealth of community and online resources to help you provide effective care on this journey. Start by finding the Alzheimers Association in your country . These organizations offer practical support, helplines, advice, and training for caregivers and their families. They can also put you in touch with local support groups.

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    What Are The Symptoms

    Usually the first symptom is memory loss. Often the person who has a memory problem doesn’t notice it, but family and friends do. As dementia gets worse:

    • You may have more trouble doing things that take planning, like making a list and going shopping.
    • You may have trouble using or understanding words.
    • You may get lost in places you know well.

    Over time, people with dementia may begin to act very differently. They may become scared and strike out at others, or they may become clingy and childlike. They may stop brushing their teeth or bathing.

    Later, they cannot take care of themselves. They may not know where they are. They may not know their loved ones when they see them.

    Find Engaging Activities And Encourage Socialization

    Incorporate activities and hobbies that match your loved ones interests and abilities into their daily care plan. Building on current skills generally works better than trying to teach something new.

    • Help the person get started and break activities down into small steps.
    • Watch for signs of agitation or frustration. If they become irritated, gently help or redirect their attention to something else.
    • To help maintain functional skills, enhance feelings of personal control and make good use of time, try to include them in an entire activity process. For instance, at mealtimes, encourage the person to play a role in helping prepare the food, set the table and clean up afterwards.
    • Take advantage of adult day care services for Alzheimers patients, which provide various activities and social opportunities for seniors as well as respite time for caregivers.

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    Help Them Keep Their Animal Companion

    There are many benefits to having a pet for older people. Cats, dogs, and other animals can provide continuing love and companionship for someone with Alzheimers. For those in the early stages, taking care of a pet can help them keep active.

    If it becomes more difficult for the person to care for their pet, people can consider ways to keep them together. This may mean asking a neighbor or community member to take a dog for walks or ensure a cat receives its food on time.

    Some organizations, such as Meals on Wheels America, may also be able to deliver pet food. Look for local charities that provide dog walking, cat sitting, and temporary fostering services for older adults with health conditions.

    Plan Activities That Provide Meaning

    Caring for Someone with Alzheimer

    When taking care of a loved one, you must use visual cues. Labels on the fridge will become less significant over time as Alzheimers progresses. Therefore, structure and routine will become more important, and keeping things in a positive loop can offer stability and may help your loved one be able to function better.

    Recommended Reading: Dementia Mayo Clinic

    Alzheimer’s And The Brain

    Alzheimer’s disease results in brain nerve cells dying this cell loss throughout the brain is eventually visualized in brain scans as enlarged ventricles and smaller areas of brain tissue. The result is disrupted cellular communication that is evidenced by the person’s decline in memory, speech, comprehension, and other changes.

    Being The Caregiver For A Friend Or Family Member With Alzheimers Isnt Easy Heres What Experts Recommend

    Maybe its a close friend or a distant relative. It might even be one of your parents or grandparents.

    For many of us, its not hard to think of someone suffering from Alzheimers disease or another form of dementia. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimers alone. The disease causes brain cells to wither and die, robbing people of their memory and thinking skills while also prompting various behavioral problems. Eventually, it can leave them unable to perform basic daily tasks.

    Like other dementias, Alzheimers is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time. Theres no cure for it, and current treatments are unable to reverse its spread.

    But the disease impacts more people than just those diagnosed with it. Many with Alzheimers disease receive care from friends and family in their own home. According to the Alzheimers Association, in 2015, nearly 16 million adults cared for family members with Alzheimers disease or dementia.

    Everyone is impacted by it, says Marie Bernard, deputy director of the National Institute on Aging . Its a big problem.

    Although this care is often lovingly provided by friends and family, caring for an Alzheimers patient can carry significant challenges and exact its own toll on caregivers. And as the diseases inevitable decline marches on, people living with the disorder often require more rigorous and intensive care.

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    How Does A Caregiver Assist With Medications

    Lori McKenna: Caregivers may provide verbal prompts or written notes to assist with medication management. As the disease progresses, there may be a need for more advanced assistance, such as having medications bubble packed by a pharmacy.

    There are also medication management systems which can be pre-loaded and will dispense medications at set intervals throughout the day. It may become necessary, when medication reliance is unpredictable, for a caregiver to assume primary responsibility for dispensing medication or hiring a nurse to do so. There is not one answer that fits all, like many of the challenges inherent with caregiving, often plans evolve over time as needs change.

    Professional Tips And Tricks

    Caregiver Training: Repetitive Questions | UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program

    Be Prepared Numerous things can happen during your time as a caregiver. However, being prepared for whatever may arise is essential.

    Plan Ahead Its essential to plan for Alzheimers payments and trying to keep everything together. Therefore, look at insurance, accounts, and programs available to make your life easier.

    Get Support Dont be afraid to pay attention to your feelings and get support. Caregivers can suffer from an increase incidence of depression. Since its very common for people to grieve the loss of a loved one while still alive, you must focus your mind on the positive aspects of the relationship with your loved one. If you still have feelings that affect your physical and mental well-being, make sure that you talk to a doctor.

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    General Advice For Helping Your Loved One

    Learn as much as possible:

    One of the best first steps is to study the specific condition affecting your loved one. Different types of dementia have different causes, symptoms, and methods of treatment, and having a handle on that information can help you with your approach. For example, knowing that Alzheimer’s disease can cause a loss of balance might explain why your loved one seems nervous to be walking around in public. This can provide a way in for a conversation that can help them feel more comfortable, and it can help you give them the support they need.

    Keep things calm and consistent:

    Dementia can be a frustrating experience both for the person experiencing it and the family and friends who act as caregivers for them. Crying, yelling, and angry outbursts are common, so it is best to be prepared to mitigate those emotions. The best course of action is to keep calm. Give the person space and be respectful of what they are feeling.

    A clear and regular routine can also help to cut down on the number of frustrations your family might encounter. When things are predictable, older adults with memory problems are less likely to make mistakes that would make them feel embarrassed or upset. Be sure to build time for rest and relaxation into the schedule, too.

    Collaborate and find community:

    Make Sure Your Support System Involves Other Caregivers

    There are peer support groups in every state for people with Alzheimers disease and for Alzheimers caregivers, Krishnan says. Growing relationships with others facing the same challenges that you are can help you learn strategies to cope learn about new resources in your community and feel reassuring to talk about shared experiences.

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    Caregiver Support And Oral Health Education

    Caregivers play a vital role in the oral health maintenance of people with AD therefore, effective communication and rapport between caregivers and the dental team are essential. Caregivers may require oral health training and education to properly care for those with AD. Providing short and simple instructions on how to provide oral care to their loved one is a good starting point.37 The mirroring technique is a strategy in which the caregiver demonstrates how to perform oral hygiene, while the patient mirrors his or her actions at the same time.37 This may be most effective when caring for patients who have lost the ability to follow step-by-step instructions. Encourage caregivers to experiment with different methods to find what works best for the patient. Training for effective handling and cleaning of removable dentures may be necessary in some cases.37 In the advanced stages of AD, the caregiver should continue to support and encourage good oral health to the best of his or her ability.

    Caring For Someone With Alzheimers Disease

    Alzheimerâs Care: How do you know when its time?

    Alzheimerâs disease is called a family disease, because the chronic stress of watching a loved one slowly decline affects everyone. An effective treatment will address the needs of the entire family. Caregivers must focus on their own needs, take time for their own health, and get support and respite from caregiving regularly to be able to sustain their well-being during this caregiving journey. Emotional and practical support, counseling, resource information, and educational programs about Alzheimerâs disease all help a caregiver provide the best possible care for a loved one.

    Absolutely the easiest thing for someone to say and the hardest thing to accept is the advice to take care of yourself as a caregiver. As stated by one caregiver, âThe care you give to yourself is the care you give to your loved one.â It is often hard to see beyond the care tasks that await you each morning.

    Through training, caregivers can learn how to manage challenging behaviors, improve communication skills, and keep the person with Alzheimerâs safe. Research shows that caregivers experience lower stress and better health when they learn skills through caregiver training and participate in a support group . Participation in these groups can allow caregivers to care for their loved one at home longer.

    Now it is time to take action, and take stock of the people, services, and information that will help you provide care. The earlier you get support, the better.

    Early-Stage Alzheimerâs

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