Today we're taking time to say THANK YOU to all the caregivers around the world who are doing their best to care for someone they love who has Alzheimer's disease.
Important information about Alzheimer's from the Fischer Center for Alzheimer's Research:
When you care for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia, they become the main focus — everything revolves around them.
It begins by trying to keep the patient calm, safe and happy. Who doesn't want to avoid an angry outburst or tearful crying episode? So, routines and obligations gradually are relaxed to keep the peace.
You may skip doctors appointments because you can't get your person in the car. You may prepare and eat extra meals because just consumed food is forgotten, and dining is a pleasant activity. You may stay up all night to keep your now nocturnal person company and out of danger.
This seems okay, and even necessary at first. But, before you know it you're immersed in a world that doesn't make sense.
Don't let the person with dementia call the shots.
A regular schedule of outings — such as walks around the block, or rides in the car — can make it easier when you have appointments because it will be part of your routine to get up and go.
A planned day will keep everyone occupied and can reduce undesirable behaviors like overeating, or sleeping during the day.
The Alzheimer's Association suggests you create a daily plan based on your person's likes and dislikes. Click here for a sample plan and more ideas. It's also important to choose activities you enjoy, too.
Yes, there will be days when your plans are discarded.
But, when possible, try to have a rough outline of a schedule to make your caregiving experience easier and more enjoyable for both of you.
When someone you love has Alzheimer's, driving privileges can be one of the most difficult decisions you must face.
Is your person safe behind the wheel?
Driving is a symbol of independence and adulthood. It means self-reliance and freedom to many people. The idea of losing the right to drive is upsetting. But safety must be your priority.
Some people will recognize the risks and stop driving on their own. However, many people refuse to accept they are no longer safe drivers. You must intervene when driving puts your person and others at risk.
What should you do?
If you have a stubborn person who insists they can drive safely, arrange for a driving evaluation.
Contact your State Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Don't hesitate to let the examiner know your person has dementia.
Some states require physicians to notify the DMV of any patient diagnosed with dementia. The person with dementia is required to report to the DMV for a driver re-examination. Individuals diagnosed with moderate or severe dementia may have their licenses automatically revoked. To find out about driving and dementia laws, you can call the Department of Motor Vehicles for the state where your person resides.
Alzheimer's is scary enough without worrying about a traffic accident.
This is a difficult and emotional decision, but ultimately, safety is the priority. Do what you must do to prevent a tragedy.
People in the early to middle stages of Alzheimer's tend to hide and hoard things. The theory is that these behaviors are a result of a fear of being robbed.
As a caregiver, I often found personal care items, food, newspapers, books, and garbage hidden in bags, boxes, sugar bowls, suitcases, under the bed, in closets, hampers, drawer and purses. However, these items weren't the problem.
The real frustration came when important items went missing. Car keys, remote controls, power cords, food about to be cooked, and everything else you can think of, would suddenly go missing.
The worry with this behavior is that the food, valuables and medications could be missing for days.
At the first sign of hoarding, put valuables where the person with Alzheimer's can't access them. Important documents, jewelry and other family treasures aren't at risk if they are stored somewhere else. You will save yourself a lot of grief if you decide to do this early in the disease. Think about medications and other important items, too. Put things you don't want to lose in a secure place.
It's okay to lose six pairs of socks. It's not okay to lose the house keys, medications, or legal documents.
Oh, and by the way, don't underestimate your person with Alzheimer's. They will take something from your easy hiding place and put it somewhere you may never find it.
Consider yourself warned. Good luck.
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