There’s no doubt: dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is a challenge – not only for sufferers, but also for their carers.
It can all seem rather taxing at times. However, with the correct support and information, overcoming the obstacles and identifying the best long-term care options for your loved one does become easier. Once you’ve worked through the emotions of anger, grief, shock and worry, it’s time to make allowances for the care of the individual.
Start by maintaining the person’s social-activity levels. Experts seem to agree that, when caring for someone with dementia, adopting daily routines will help to create a sense of consistency. This is beneficial to both the patient and the carer.
Create a routine that will be familiar to the person with dementia, and which best fits in with your schedule. After all, even if you’re caring for someone with dementia, you don’t have to place your own life, or health, on hold.
To get the best results from any routine, start small and pick up the pace as you go along. The following steps are a simple guide:
- First make the person with Alzheimer’s used to regular times for waking up, bathing, dressing, eating, receiving visitors, and sleeping.
- Be careful not to change the person’s existing routine just to suit you. Unfortunately this can cause extreme anxiety.
- Don’t have a too strict regime. Just like you, the person with dementia also has moods and may not always feel up to a certain task. Ask yourself if it really matters if they don’t have a bath right now. Try again a bit later.
- Cues such as opening the curtains in the morning and playing quiet music at bedtime will help indicate different times of day, anchoring each part of the daily routine in something familiar and pleasant.
- Remind the person daily of what to expect, and what his or her day will look like.
- Make sure the person maintains a level of independence for as long as possible. Involve him or her in minor daily activities if they’re able. Let them do as much as they can for themselves.
- Always create activities around the person’s past interests.
- Vary activities to stimulate different senses of sight, smell, hearing and touch.
- Plan outdoor activities such as walking, picnics, drives and swimming. Relaxing on the patio or in the backyard can be useful if the person doesn’t want to go out.
- Contact senior centres to find out about their group activities.
- Plan visits when your loved one can best handle visitors, ensuring that the number of visitors is kept to a minimum. A room full of people and cross-conversations may add to your loved one’s confusion.
Get some great ideas from your medical team or an Alzheimer’s support group, especially regarding establishing routines to handle the most challenging times of day.
Also query what assistance your medical team is able to provide. In South Africa, the practice of hiring carers who are trained in caring for a person with dementia in their own home is becoming increasingly popular.
If you can afford it, geriatric care managers can also provide an initial assessment, assist with crisis management, conduct interviews for in-home help, or help you with the placement of your loved one at a reputable nursing home.
REMEMBER: The reality of caring for someone with dementia isn’t easy, and it’s important to reach out for help – for your sanity and the well-being of your loved one.