3 Ways To Improve the Care of Alzheimer’s Patients

Published: 2013-11-06, Last Modified:

Caring for any elderly person in poor health is a challenge. But, Alzheimer’s disease makes the challenges of caregiving far greater. Caring for a loved one means not just coping with their physical problems and decreased independence; but also contending with a condition that systematically robs the person of her memories, personality, sense of self and ability to do even the simplest tasks.

The extensive damage to the brain that occurs over the course of the disease creates a caregiving situation that can feel overwhelming at times. But, with some solid strategies in place, those caring for Alzheimer’s patients can make this journey less taxing on the caregiver and the loved one. Here are some ways to manage the more common issues that a caregiver will encounter.

Frustrations Exist Both For The Caregiver And The Patient

Dealing with an Alzheimer’s patient can be frustrating beyond belief. But, it is important for caregivers to remember that they are not the only one feeling that way. People with this disease can easily get frustrated as even the simplest tasks are now a huge challenge for them. Learning approaches that will reduce frustrations for both people is well worth the effort.

One of the best ways to limit frustrations, and keep the waters as calm as possible, is devising some sort of daily routine for a loved one to follow. Alzheimer’s patients respond very well to routine—predictability because it cuts down on confusion. To minimize conflicts, it is best to schedule the more challenging tasks at a time of day when the patient is most agreeable and calm. Some examples of tasks to be schedules at this time include bathing and doctor’s appointments. In these situations, caregivers should allocate a lot of time to complete the tasks to avoid rushing the loved one and becoming stressed. The stress is good for neither person.

Whenever there is a situation for which a loved one must choose from different options, such as what to wear for the day or what to eat for lunch, caregivers should try to provide as few options as possible. When it comes to getting dressed, for example, the caregiver should lay out a couple of outfits on the bed rather than sticking them in front of an open closet packed with clothing. Limiting distractions allows a loved one to better concentrate on the task at hand, whether it is having a conversation or eating a meal.

Learning to be flexible will also serve caregivers very well in this role because an Alzheimer’s patients’s abilities, preferences, behaviors and the like will be constantly changing. For example, if the loved one begins to get extremely agitated during their daily bathing, it may be important to let go of the idea that the person must shower every single day.

Communicating Effectively With An Alzheimer’s Patient

Successfully communicating with an Alzheimer’s patient requires a whole different approach than most people are used to. Logic and reasoning in those with Alzheimer’s has been severely compromised; following conversations and listening becomes very difficult, and even the simplest statements cannot be comprehended. One of the most important things to remember is that Alzheimer’s patients are very good at reading body language and whatever cues they are getting from you can influence how they speak and act. So, a caregiver should do their best to always convey a demeanor that suggests calm and ease.


This is unlikely to be easy, but it can make communication go much more smoothly. Speaking in a gentle and calm voice and never approach a person from behind are also important. Communicating with a patient at eye level or lower can put the person at ease. Speaking in short, simple sentences is important especially when giving instructions. Also, keeping distractions to a minimum is important so when speaking with the person, a caregiver should ensure there is no TV, radio or other noise.

Managing Hallucinations and Delusions

Handling delusion is a particularly challenging aspect for caregivers helping those with Alzheimers. No matter how absurd a delusion or hallucination may seem to a logical mind, it is very real to the person with this disease. Appealing to logic and reason is futile, though for a frustrated caregiver, this may be the approach they first choose. But, caregivers must remember that they are dealing with a ‘’broken’’ brain and that telling the person that something is not real or not true will not help the situation.

If the person feels afraid, a caregiver can comfort them. Barring any danger to themselves or others, going along with the hallucination may be a harmless option. If the person with Alzheimer’s claims that they saw someone breaking into a neighbor’s home, telling the person tha the police were called and that they will take care of it might defuse the situation. Redirecting attention is often an effective strategy. As well, because a person with Alzheimer’s has an inability to distinguish fantasy and reality, it may be a good idea to limit television programming that is violent or has other disturbing elements.

Conclusions

While caring for a person with Alzheimer’s is going to be a serious challenge, learning ways to effectively manage the person can reduce some of the frustration and stress that is frequently associated with the illness.

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who has blogged about a variety of topics related to elder care from evaluating Chicago senior care planning facilities to tips for caregivers.

Related Links

http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/caregiver-guide#.UnmuoieGexw
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-caregiver/HO00125
http://www.helpguide.org/elder/alzheimers_disease_dementias_caring_caregivers.htm

Category: General Health

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