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Dealing with Alzheimer’s as a Family

Watching a loved one go through a life-altering and difficult change like Alzheimer’s before your eyes would challenge the emotions of the bravest soul. You may find you have to combine that with a role that changes from life partner to live-in carer and social worker. 

You are not alone. It’s likely that the number of people with dementia in Ireland will triple over the next 30 years to more than 140,000 by 2050 

What many of us need is family support and help with home care. Read on for the tips to help you if you’re living with a family member who has Alzheimer’s. 

Family Support and Looking After Yourself 

You need to keep yourself as healthy and strong as possible. That means looking after yourself emotionally and physically. It can be tempting to “keep calm and carry on” but running yourself down could soon mean you are unable to cope.  

There is no shame in seeking family support for yourself. On the contrary, it demonstrates a realistic insight into the difficulties of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. So, who cares for the carers? 

  1. Family and friends can help by giving you a break 
  2. Charities offer valuable online support and advice 
  3. Share experiences with other carers through an online forum 

Taking Time Out 

Being able to get away for a short period to take a walk or sit in a café can make a world of difference. If possible, arrange for another family member or friend to take over home care regularly at a set time each week, even if it’s for only an hour. 

Meeting others who are in similar situations to your own can be worth its weight in gold. You’ll feel supported and will also be able to share tips, advice, and practical solutions. If you can’t leave the house, there are online groups you could join. 

If you’re struggling to cope, you might find counselling or another talking therapy beneficial. This kind of help is also available online. 

Other options could be: 

  1. Using a day centre that’s specifically for carers and those they’re caring for 
  2. Talking to your GP about getting home care through an agency  

It’s worth knowing that there are dozens of dementia research projects in full swing across the globe. There’s increasing recognition of the role carers play. Experts are looking at the support they need to help someone with dementia stay independent. 

Alzheimer’s and Everyday Tasks 

As the symptoms of Alzheimer’s worsen, a person may start to feel anxious, stressed, and frightened. That could be because they can’t remember things, follow conversations or concentrate. 

You should help support your loved one to maintain their skills, abilities, and an active social life for as long as possible. This can also help how they feel about themselves. Let your loved one assist you with everyday tasks. These could include: 

  1. Shopping 
  2. Gardening 
  3. Laying the table 

Try using memory aids placed around the home to help your loved one remember where things are. You could put signs on drawers, cupboards, and doors, for example. 

The Key to Better Communication for a Person with Alzheimer’s

Dementia affects the way a person communicates. You will typically find you have to change the way you talk and listen to the person you care for. Here are some top tips to help open up conversations with the person you’re looking after: 

  1. Talk slowly and clearly in short sentences 
  2. Make eye contact  
  3. Give them extra time to respond 
  4. Let them speak for themselves during discussions about their wellbeing 
  5. Do not patronise them or ridicule what they say 
  6. Always acknowledge whatever they say 
  7. Try rephrasing questions if they are unable to answer how they used to 

Gestures, facial expressions, and movement can all help get a message across. When your loved one finds it hard to speak or understand: 

  1. Stay patient and calm to help them communicate more easily 
  2. Keep a positive and friendly tone of voice  
  3. Talk from a respectful distance to avoid intimidation 
  4. Hold their hand while talking to them for reassurance  

Communication is a two-way process. You may have to learn to listen more carefully to your loved one: 

  1. Try not to interrupt, even if you understand what they’re saying 
  2. Give them full attention while they speak 
  3. Avoid distractions like the TV when talking but check if it’s OK to do so 
  4. Repeat back what they’ve said to confirm you’ve heard accurately 

Help with Drinking and Eating  for a Person with Alzheimer’s

Those with Alzheimer’s often do not drink enough because they don’t realise they’re thirsty. This can cause health issues and lead to increased confusion that makes the symptoms of dementia worse. 

Your loved one may also not recognise foods and even refuse to eat. This could be due to confusion, pain from sore gums and ill-fitting dentures, or difficulty swallowing. Remember your loved one isn’t being deliberately awkward. Try these tips: 

  1. Make more time for meals 
  2. Prepare food you know they enjoy and in smaller portions 
  3. Try fuller flavours or more sugary foods 
  4. Provide foods to eat by hand if they find it hard to use a knife and fork 
  5. Use cups that are easy to hold 

Care at Home Using the Toilet and Tackling Sleep Problems

Your loved one may simply forget they need the toilet or even where the toilet is. When appropriate, try to retain a sense of humour and be mindful it’s not their fault. Try these tips: 

  1. Keep a sign on the toilet door  
  2. Leave the toilet door open and a light on at night 
  3. Try to make going to the toilet part of a regular daily routine 

Sleep disturbance can be an issue and your loved one may try to get dressed during the night as they’re not aware of the time. Try these tips: 

  1. Keep a clock by the bed that shows if it’s night or day 
  2. Ensure your loved one has lots of physical activity during the day 
  3. Cut out caffeine and alcohol after 5 pm 
  4. Limit daytime naps when possible

Comfort Keepers Is There to Help with Homecare 

At Comfort Keepers, we have plenty of first-hand experience on all the issues around dementia. We understand the difficulties those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s face every day of the week. 

Whatever your situation, contact us now. Discover how Comfort Keepers can help you with home care through all the difficult and challenging times. 

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