By:  Expert Author Troy Jones, M.B.A., Owner/Administrator, At Home Assisted Living Services, Anderson IN

Alzheimer’s disease is progressive and incurable. There may be some early signs that friends and family notice, such as changes in hygiene habits, unexplained and unexpected behavior patterns, and once-important things become forgotten or neglected.

Alzheimer’s progressed through these initial signs to loss of thinking ability, judgment capacity, memory and concentration. This disease is not a result of the normal aging process. However, it does occur more frequently in the population who are 65 years and older.

So many aspects of this disease are still unknown. The exact causes are unknown, so it’s difficult to know what the preventive measures are. We must work on what we do know and what the medical and caring professions have learned over the years.

Caregiver strategies for dealing with Alzheimer’s

  1. Know what lies ahead. If you are a caregiver for a senior with this disease, educate yourself and join some groups. As a family caregiver, you will need some training and support. As a member of a home care service, your training should be provided through the agency you work for. Being prepared is going to be your best tip.
  2. Understand that behavioral changes will come. Then you won’t be caught off guard when they do. The nerve cells of the brain in the one you care for will be destroyed. Cognitive functions will diminish and change. Personality, behavior and speech will all be affected. Communication, social interactions and other aspects of the patient’s life will also be affected.
  3. Family caregivers can feel distraught when their loved one no longer recognizes them or knows who they are. This is loss of identity. You can cope with this by remembering that this is the disease talking, not your loved one. Looking at family photos and reminiscing about life before the disease can help you stay connected.
  4. Professional caregivers can feel discouraged when trying to communicate or reason with the senior they care for. Problem-solving becomes a big part of everyday life, especially as personality and behavior changes continue to shift. Remain calm and patient and use gestures and sign language if your senior is difficult to communicate with. Reassure with a comforting tone of voice or a soft touch.
  5. Take care of yourself too. You can’t give your aging loved one all of you all of the time. Soon there won’t be anything left. You must keep yourself in top shape emotionally and physically in order to carry the burden of full time care of an Alzheimer’s patient.
  6. If you are primary caregiver, get some help. You need respite. Look into what options are available and affordable. Sometimes even a few hours a day of home care services will give you that rest you need.