The Dos and Don’ts in Caring for a Family Member with Alzheimer’s Disease

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Living with a loved one with Alzheimer’s is difficult! Caring for them, however, is even more complicated – especially without sufficient expertise or help. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative illness that progressively takes something away as the disease takes its toll over time. Therefore, we need to be mindful, respectful, and considerate of what the individual is going through.

Today, let’s outline some of what you should and shouldn’t do when looking after someone with Alzheimer’s disease. 

What You Should Do

Enable Independence Wherever/Whenever Sensible

If a loved one can handle basic tasks such as gardening, light housekeeping, and even light cooking, let them. You can still monitor from a distance or, even better, do it with them. Being able to contribute and participating in regular activities encourages self-worth and a sense of accomplishment. Let them enjoy these moments of independence while they are still able to accomplish them on their own. What’s more, enjoy these moments with your loved one and make some more happy memories to cherish.

Ensure your Loved One Feels Their Voice is Heard

If someone with Alzheimer’s under your care requests assistance, give it. If they reach out to you, it means that they need you. They appreciate your presence and are comforted by it. Harness this positive energy and be responsive, clear, and friendly if they speak to you. It’s imperative that the individual being looked after feels listened to and heard; otherwise, they may feel hurt, frustrated, and discouraged, possibly becoming agitated or withdrawn. 

Take Their Interests and Passions into Account

If your loved one enjoys a particular hobby—birdwatching, classic movies, gardening, walking, or drawing—embrace it and encourage them to partake in activities. More importantly, participate in it alongside them – it’s a great chance to understand their emotions, current symptoms, and how they feel, not to mention an opportunity to chat with them and make more memories. 

Keep Them in a Positive, Preoccupied Mindset

If they made a mistake, it’s best to laugh it off with the individual receiving care. The key to healthy, effective Alzheimer’s patient care is the approach – join into their reality with a positive and gentle demeanor, and you’ll notice the difference! This is a great chance to encourage them to smile, laugh, and make the most of each day, and that should be all they need to worry about. Keeping them busy and entertained, such as with painting, taking a walk, or comforting music that resurrects old memories, is also a good strategy. 

What Not to Do

Confuse the Disease with the Person

Remember this is a disease within the brain that can cause the person to behave irrationally. Sometimes we forget that and succumb to negative emotional reactions, sometimes even spite. Judging or cutting down someone with Alzheimer’s only suppresses their willingness to express their needs for you. It makes them feel belittled, insignificant, and like a burden. A fragile frame of mind can be deeply hurt by negative reactions to their behaviours. 

Get Angry

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can get frustrating! It’s easy to say, don’t get angry, it’s not their fault, but it will happen, and you will get angry. We are all human and anger is a normal emotion when we just cannot handle it anymore. When you feel yourself getting to this point, take a break, go for a walk, call for someone to stay with your loved one while you take some time for yourself. If you are not in the frame of mind to care for your loved one, you and your loved one will suffer for it. 

Express Annoyance or Impatience

Caregiving is tiring but worth it. The loved one we look after may not be able to perform basic functions on their own after the disease gets to a certain point. Therefore, if we get irritated at seemingly mundane tasks such as helping them get dressed or go to the bathroom, we convey to them that we aren’t willing to help. The last thing a loved one with Alzheimer’s should feel is being a burden. 

Correct mistakes

One of the worst things we can do is correct someone with Alzheimer’s when, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really make a difference. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may have perceptions that do not make sense to our reality but it’s real to them. Correcting will only bring frustration and further arguments. The key is to enter the person’s reality without correction or judgment.

Here are some examples: Your loved one tells you they saw their mother last night; our first reaction is to try and set them straight and remind them that their mother died 40 years ago. This usually leads to the loved one reliving past painful memories. Instead, say, “Oh, I hope she is doing well,” and move on to a different topic.

If your loved one says the sky is purple, say, “Yes, it is such a lovely day outside today.”

There are times when we may need to correct but try and do it in a way that lets the person know that what they feel or experience is important to us. 

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is a brave, significant, and compassionate undertaking. Never doubt that you’re essential and appreciated in their life. Cherish the time you have together and do incredible things together while managing their daily requirements.

If you require expert assistance or temporary relief, our team at Choice Homecare Ottawa is just a phone call or email away. Contact us to book a free assessment, find out more details about how we can help, or simply for some friendly advice from one of our nurses who understands what you’re going through!