father and daughter

Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Support

Caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s disease is difficult. Alzheimer’s disease is a very progressive disease and causes significant changes in a person’s everyday life. It quickly affects a person’s memory, ability to organize and make plans, perform simple calculations (i.e. balancing a checkbook), and as it progresses further, can affect a person’s ability to walk, swallow, and speak.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.3 million people will have this disease in 2015. Family and friends provide much of the care required by individuals affected by Alzheimer’s disease. In 2014, caregivers of individuals with this disease and dementia provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care.

Here are some tips on how to care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease and how to be a healthy caregiver.

Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease

Be informed

It’s important for you and others who will be caring for your family member to gather information about the disease and prepare yourselves for various challenges during its different stages. Remember when challenges arise, it’s the disease, not the person, that is responsible.

Discuss the future

In the early stages of the disease, individuals may be capable of participating in conversations about their future care. Take this time to learn about your loved one’s goals of care and appoint a power of attorney while he or she can still contribute.

Develop a consistent, daily plan

Create a schedule and include activities such as daily chores, personal care time, meal times, and special activities. Small changes in a daily schedule can disrupt an individual affected by Alzheimer’s disease. As dementia progresses, the daily plan may need to be modified.

Be a Healthy Caregiver

Manage your stress

Stress can take its toll on your mind and body. There are many symptoms of caregiver stress, including:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Social withdrawal
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Sleeplessness
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration

Be aware and learn how to manage the symptoms. Know what resources are available and when to ask for help. Relax and make time for yourself.

Visit your doctor annually

Let your doctor know that you are caring for a person with dementia. Pay attention to exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness, or changes in your everyday behavior. If providing physical assistance, pay attention to muscle and bone injuries.

Take care of yourself

Eat well and exercise. It is important to remember that you cannot take good care of your loved one if you are not taking proper care of yourself.

Find an Alzheimer’s Support Group

If you are caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s, attend an Alzheimer’s Support Group like the one we offer at the UPMC St. Margaret Geriatric Care Center. Here, you will:

  • Gain information and insight to better understand the disease
  • Learn coping strategies
  • Share experiences
  • Obtain and offer support

To learn more about support groups for caregivers, visit the Geriatric Care Center at UPMC St. Margaret online or call 412-784-5054 or 412-784-5050