When someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s not uncommon for family members to become their primary caregivers. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease at home – where the environment is familiar to them – is beneficial. However, it can also be very challenging. Establishing a daily routine, creating a safe home environment, carving time out for engaging activities, improving communication, and planning for respite care will give you a roadmap in your caregiving journey.
Learn More about Alzheimer’s Disease
Knowing what to expect with Alzheimer’s disease can help you understand your loved one’s experience and plan ahead. Take the time to learn about the stages of the disease and the changes they bring. Resources like books (such as How We Age: A Doctor’s Journey into the Heart of Growing Old by our own Dr. Marc Agronin), websites (such as The Alzheimer’s Association), and local support groups can provide valuable information and advice for your unique situation.
Establish a Daily Routine
Just like how a familiar home environment is reassuring, creating a consistent daily routine can bring a sense of stability to both you and your loved one. Stick to regular mealtimes, medication routines, and activities to provide a predictable environment that promotes a sense of familiarity. People with Alzheimer’s disease may struggle to adjust to new people and places, so implement changes gradually to help.
Create a Safe Home Environment
Safety should be a top priority in Alzheimer’s disease care. Make necessary modifications to ensure a safe living space by installing handrails, removing tripping hazards, and using monitoring systems to prevent wandering. These safety features can provide peace of mind and give your family member more freedom to move around independently.
Incorporate Mental and Physical Activities
Incorporating stimulating activities into your loved one’s care routine can help enhance their overall well-being. Plus, activities are a great way to spend quality time with them. The best types of activities for people with Alzheimer’s disease are those that feel familiar and match their level of ability. In addition to entertainment activities, encourage regular exercise like walking, stretching, or gentle workouts designed for older adults.
Communicate with Compassion
Social interaction can become more challenging as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. However, there are several strategies you can employ to improve communication and have more meaningful conversations with your loved one. Use simple and clear language, maintain eye contact, and speak slowly (but not condescendingly). Be patient and attentive, allowing time for them to process information and respond. Non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions and gestures, can also play a crucial role in conveying your message.
Plan for Respite Care
Alzheimer’s disease care can be emotionally and physically demanding, so it’s essential to plan for respite care sooner than you think you’ll need it.
Respite care provides short-term breaks for primary caregivers and is available in-home and at some medical or adult care facilities. Most insurance plans don’t cover this type of service. However, there are a range of possible federal, state, and private funding sources to help pay for respite care that you may qualify for.
Whether you’re using an agency, a home health aide, or a family member, creating a detailed respite care plan is vital to ensure your loved one is safe and comfortable while you’re away.
When creating your plan, include medical information, emergency procedures, and information about personal routines, diet, and activities. Also include a list of allergies, medications with dosage instructions, and the contact information for doctors.
How MIND Institute Can Help
The Frank C. and Lynn Scaduto MIND Institute at Miami Jewish Health is dedicated to comprehensive Alzheimer’s disease care services for individuals and their families. For example, our memory disorder clinic offers outpatient assessment and management, while our caregiver support and coordination services provide counseling and assistance for caregivers. Also available through MIND Institute, the Girsh Cognitive Enrichment and Meaningful MINDs brain fitness programs both offer engaging activities to enhance cognition and mood for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease requires compassion, patience, and a deep understanding of the challenges they face. With the above tips, you can provide them with optimal care. Remember, you are not alone on this journey. MIND Institute is here to support you with specialized services, expertise, and an empathic approach to Alzheimer’s disease care.