Ten Tips To Caring For An Alzheimer's Patient

Ever try to care for an Alzheimer's patient at home? Daily tasks become extremely difficult. Here are some tips to help cope with this debilitating disease.

1. To borrow a phrase, don't sweat the small stuff. True, it is very frustrating when AD patients hide everything and when they turn off the oven while you are cooking something. They may rearrange the cabinets daily or hum the same tune over and over. However, these symptoms

are not life threatening and, in the case of our grandma, we have found that they can be very comforting to her.

2. It's not all small stuff. Most of the time, we try to let Grandma do as she wishes. If she wants to wash the dishes with the drying rag, that's okay. If she wants to eat spagettios and ramen noodles together, that's okay. But sometimes an AD patient may do something really

harmful and that it when it is time to step in and take control. You will have to draw the line in your home about what it acceptable and what is not.

3. Affirm, affirm, affirm. AD patients have lost the ability to perform even the simplest of tasks. They realize they are treated differently than they used to be. They live in a world of frustration , isolation, and despair. It is very important to praise every task. We thank our grandma profusely anytime she does the dishes. We compliment her when she sets the table, even if we have two forks, a butter knife, and no plate. Complimenting your loved one is a highlight of caregiving. It will make both of you feel better.

4. Distraction is your friend. Many times AD patients ask nonsensical questions or become upset over hallucinations. In their mind their sister who died ten years ago is still a teenager and is standing in their bedroom. What they believe is their reality. They may become stuck on an idea

and the only way to reroute their behavior is to distract them. Questions about their early youth, or talk of the weather or the birds outside are common tools of distraction.

5. Don't lie. Try every trick in the book except lying. Many times AD patients are already paranoid and when you lie, even if they believe you, they may sense that you are uncomfortable in what you are telling them. It also makes you feel very badly about yourself. If, for example, they

say their mother who died twenty years ago is picking them up for dinner, don't tell them she called and said she isn't coming, try to distract them so they forget about it completely, at least for awhile.

6. Be aware of their physical needs. AD patients have a very difficult time phrasing their needs, or they were raised in a generation when such things as using the restroom weren't talked about. Many times wandering is a symptom of a physical need. Try to learn the signals of when they need to use the restroom, are hungry, thirsty, or bored.

7. Create a safe haven for them. AD patients need a room where everything is familiar. Put up many pictures of loved ones, especially their parents and siblings, since these may be the only people they remember. Put as many of their favorite things from the past in their room as


8. Talk about the good old days. Our grandma's memories regress. She can no longer remember yesterday, but she remembers what her band uniform looked like in high school. It is infinitely comforting to an AD patient to talk about their childhood because it is a safe, solid

memory of better days.

9. Get respite care...early. Starting early with respite care is good for both you and the patient. You need a break, and the patient needs to establish a trusting relationship with the respite caregiver.

10. Pamper yourself. Caregiving is a 24/7 job. You get very little time off and sometimes very little thanks. Never feel guilty about pampering yourself during this time. Get a manicure, buy a tub of gourmet ice cream, or go to a movie. This may be the one time in your life when you can indulge yourself and not feel badly about it.

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