Helping to care for someone Alzheimer’s disease is a major challenge. When someone you care about is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it’s common to experience feelings of sadness and anxiety. You will probably have many questions. What will life be like for your loved one as their memory loss progresses? How can you plan ahead to insure that they get the care they need? For many people who find themselves in a care-giving role for someone with Alzheimer’s, the most important question is, how can I help? By considering the positive impact you can have in the life of someone with Alzheimer’s, you’ve already taken the first step on the way to being a great care partner.
Everyone experiences Alzheimer’s differently, and the progression of the disease after initial diagnosis varies widely between individuals. Some people maintain active professional and social lives, continue to enjoy travel and hobbies, and stay relatively independent for some time. When someone you care about is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, your role will probably start out as that of a care partner, rather than that of a care giver: instead of assuming responsibility for the person’s activities of daily living, it will be your job to insure that they continue to function independently for as long as possible.
People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s can also experience difficulty in keeping track of their belongings. Sticking to a routine and making sure that things are always in the same place can be very helpful. Help your loved one remember where important items like keys, glasses, and medications are kept by always putting them in an easily accessible, designated location.
One of the most important ways in which you can be of service as a caregiver is by helping your loved one to remember things. Most of us need occasional reminders to help us keep track of appointments, birthdays, and other important events. For people with early stage Alzheimer’s, these reminders are especially critical. Make a calendar to help you stay on top of dates and times; share notes and written schedules; and give frequent, gentle verbal hints and reminders. People with early stage Alzheimer’s often need help remembering familiar names, words, people and places. Forgetting things that were once familiar can be one of the most distressing parts of the initial stages of memory loss. As a care partner, you can provide subtle cues and prompts to remind your loved one of significant people and places and help them remember important names and words.