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.
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Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease
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.
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Be a Healthy Caregiver
Manage your stress
- Social withdrawal
- 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
About Aging Institute
The UPMC Aging Institute provides resources for older adults, their loved ones, and caregivers at every stage of the aging process. We create inventive programs and health care services. Our team includes world-renowned researchers, doctors, and experts. We research the aging process and use what we learn to create services to help seniors live longer and healthier lives. We partner with other organizations to determine the biggest challenges facing seniors and work to overcome them.