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Alzheimer’s: Tips on Understanding the Disease and its Limitations.

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“Caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease (AD) at home is a difficult task and can become overwhelming at times. Each day brings new challenges as the caregiver copes with changing levels of ability and new patterns of behavior. Research has shown that caregivers themselves often are at increased risk for depression and illness, especially if they do not receive adequate support from family, friends, and the community.” This statement can be found on the Alzheimer’s Association website.

The above paragraph is quoted with hope that family members everywhere, who have a loved one with AD, will take time to understand what is involved in caring for an Alzheimer’s patient.

One of the most challenging things caregivers are confronted with is dealing with fluctuating moods and difficult behaviors of the person they are caring for. The simple activities of daily life become burdensome to the person with AD. Dressing, bathing, eating, visiting, walking, and even talking can be tiresome and agitating, and often need to be addressed differently from one day to the next. Mood swings, from happiness to sadness to anger, can result for no apparent reason.

A single word, tone of voice, or suggestion can send the person with AD into a mood that results in difficult and aggressive behavior.

Anyone who has been a caregiver for a person with AD, and those informed and helpful advisors from the Alzheimer’s Association, will tell you that it is extremely important to keep the person with AD on a regular schedule. It is advised that you plan that schedule to what is comfortable for both the person with AD and the caregiver. Devising that plan is important for getting through each day and it helps both the person with AD and the caregiver cope with difficult behaviors and stressful situations.

If you do not help with the care of the person with Alzheimer’s, don’t criticize the plan that works for the patient and the caregiver.

Caregivers need help, encouragement, and support to deal with, and make, each day easier to handle the tasks they have taken the responsibility to do. They do not need to hear criticism from a sibling or family member who only “checks in” with the loved one once every four to six weeks. If you think your loved one should be more active, you should take an active part in the care, rather than offer unreasonable suggestions to the person who is responsible and is actively doing what should be done.

The last thing caregivers need to hear is a sibling or family member scolding them on Christmas morning, or anytime, because they didn’t return your call promptly enough to suit you; especially after that caregiver has just spent three hours cleaning the elderly parent, the bed sheets and carpet resulting from a problem with incontinence.

Others, who do not deal with the everyday needs of the Alzheimer’s patient, can thwart even the best of plans.

For those who live a long distance from their loved one who has Alzheimer’s, and for those who have little, or nothing, to do with the care of the person with AD, please take time to learn about the disease, its drawbacks, its inconsistencies, its varied moods, and the effects it has on the person with AD and the caregiver.

People with Alzheimer’s are not always aware of their surroundings, even if they are in their own home. Their mood can change drastically from one moment to the next. They may not be capable of controlling their bodily functions. They may not realize the movie on the television is just a movie; those characters may in their mind become “real people” in their living room.

About Joanne D. Kiggins

  • JEANNE l. lEE

    I am so impressed by this article. Thank you so much for sharing this in a form for even families living away and those helpful hints to not give opinions when not the main carepartner. I would also like to suggest books written by persons with dementia as a great help for carepartners. We live what others want to learn. My book is is “JUST LOVE ME” My Life Turned Upside-down by Alzheimer’s published by Purdue University Press and there are many others

  • Joanne D. Kiggins

    Congratulations on your book, Jeanne! It’s good to know that those with Alzheimer’s share my thoughts about less-than-helpful opinions from non-caregivers. My heart goes out to you as you struggle with this disease. My best, Joanne