Advice for Alzheimer’s Family Caregivers

Alzheimer’s is a condition that is trying for both the patient and the caregiver. Here's a checklist that can help family caregivers take care of themselves, even as they care for their loved ones.

by - Posted on May 27, 2016

A senior man cares for his wife, who is dealing with Alzheimer's syndrome

Content provided by Home Instead Senior Care.

Family caregivers often fear going out into the public with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia illness.

Why? The most common reason revolves around the fear of the potential and unpredictable behavioral symptoms of this disease, such as confusion, memory loss, repetition and poor judgment.

It can be a lonely job caring for someone with a dementia illness such as Alzheimer’s disease—and solitary for the individual as well as the family caregiver.

In fact, in a survey of family caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s conducted for Home Instead, Inc. (franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise network), many reported isolation as their biggest challenge. Seventy-four percent of the surveyed caregivers of individuals with a dementia illness reported that they and their loved ones had become more isolated as a result of the disease. Because of this, 85 percent of these caregivers believe they have a reduced quality of life.

While it may appear that isolation is an issue that only affects the individual with Alzheimer’s or his or her caregiver, research shows that it can permeate other areas too. According to the survey, 62 percent of family caregivers who are staying home more spend less time (and, as a result, less money) at local businesses.

Making sure a loved one has what he or she needs for a stress-free experience in the community could make all the difference. The first general rule is to keep it simple.

Following are other recommendations:

Something to hold
It can be helpful for someone with a dementia illness to have something to grasp to keep his or her hands occupied. A water bottle, for instance, “kills two birds with one stone.” Water keeps an individual hydrated and helps prevent fidgeting.

Accessories
Take along a hat, baseball cap or umbrella. Think about the weather as those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia can be especially sensitive to outside conditions, such as extreme heat or cold.

Snacks
Keep healthy snacks on hand both for the individual with Alzheimer’s as well as you, the caregiver. Caregivers can find themselves too busy to eat if food is not readily available.

Bags or totes
Keeping track of belongings when you’re going out can be a challenge for anyone, but especially so for someone with dementia. Totes can come in handy for a variety of items including snacks, sun screen, books and magazines, and provide an easy way to help a loved one keep track of everything.

A notebook and a pen or pencil
Individuals with a dementia illness sometimes like to make lists. That’s why it’s good to have something to write on and with. A notebook is also a great place for the family caregiver to write down questions for or comments from the doctor.

Emergency contact information
Wandering is one potential behavioral symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Be sure that both you and a loved one has contact and medical information on you and him/her or in an easily accessible location at all times. This can be critical, for example, if one of you is in an accident and unable to speak.

Looking for ways to better educate your community about Alzheimer’s disease? Encourage businesses to take the free Alzheimer’s Friendly Business® training at AlzheimersFriendlyBusiness.com (AlzheimersFriendlyBusiness.ca in Canada).

Each Home Instead Senior Care franchise office is independently owned and operated.

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