(BPT) - Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be rewarding, but has its challenges. Early diagnosis, having open communication and doing some simple activities can significantly help in caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Fortunately, there are also resources and assistance to help caregivers and their loved ones not only cope but find moments of genuine joy.
Here are ways to help your loved one cope with Alzheimer's or dementia.
1. Seek early diagnosis
New research shows that the brain starts to change years before you may see severe symptoms. While an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is extraordinarily difficult for everyone involved, early diagnosis can make a significant impact on quality of life, giving patients and families the opportunity to plan and find an appropriate level of care.
Common symptoms to watch for:
- Forgetting recently learned information
- Trouble completing ordinary tasks
- Disengaging from work, hobbies or socializing
- Difficulty following a conversation
- Using the wrong words for everyday things
If you see these signs in your loved one, make an appointment with their healthcare provider.
2. Open a dialogue about Alzheimer's
Starting a conversation about Alzheimer's with a loved one is daunting. For seniors, it can trigger fear, anxiety, or grief. Adult children may understandably delay this conversation, which can make things worse. Once the senior already has impaired judgment or memory loss, it may be too late for rational conversation. Approach the topic — and your loved one — with sensitivity. Having the conversation allows them to express their feelings and concerns and to participate in important decisions. You can also reassure your loved one that you'll provide ongoing support.
Including others in the discussion helps, such as family members, a trusted friend, clergy, social worker, or healthcare professional. Support groups for those in the early stages of Alzheimer's can also be helpful. Visit www.Alz.org to find a virtual support group or location near you.
3. Seek help when you need it
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Locating Alzheimer's care for a loved one is as simple as finding your local Comfort Keepers office. Comfort Keepers is a national network of trained caregivers who are passionate about caring for seniors in their own homes. Comfort Keepers caregivers are trained in dementia and Alzheimer's care, so they understand the challenges of these conditions. They can calm seniors during times of confusion, agitation, or anxiety using a variety of techniques. This ensures all seniors are being cared for with techniques designed to keep them comfortable, active, happy and safe — enhancing their quality of life and elevating the human spirit.
4. Learn techniques for Alzheimer’s and dementia care
Providing a calm environment and predictable routine can help your loved one cope with the confusion, agitation and anxiety. Lifestyle Gerontologist, author and spokesperson for Comfort Keepers Alexis Abramson, Ph.D., offers suggestions for helping seniors:
- Plan regular activities and exercise. Persons with Alzheimer's or dementia will be less agitated if they're involved in activities that interest them. Activities do not have to be strenuous to be beneficial.
- Focus on nutrition. Alzheimer's may affect a person's sense of taste and smell, plus the ability to feel hunger or fullness. Serve meals in a quiet, comfortable place, free of distractions. Offer easy-to-eat finger foods, plus calorie-dense foods like peanut butter, dried fruit, high-protein drinks and food bars.
- Stay calm when they're agitated. Reassure your loved one you're there to help. Distract them with a pleasing activity, such as listening to music or looking at photos.
“Exercise can result in feelings of joy and lead to improved physical and emotional health for seniors,” added Abramson. “Plan outdoor activities when possible, and include both mental and physical stimulation. Make sure activities align with their interests, and keep it fun!”
5. Don’t delay important decisions
Take care of financial, legal and long-term care planning issues as soon as possible. “Try to involve your loved one in decision-making, if they are still capable of providing input, and consider their wishes related to future care and end-of-life issues,” said Abramson.
With a positive attitude, patience — and help when you need it — you can provide much-needed care and support for your loved one.
Learn more about at-home memory care at ComfortKeepers.com.