Where Passion Meets Reality!
Good Afternoon. Welcome to Demystifying Alzheimer’s. I’m your hostess Mary Yamin-Garone.
MYG Podcast 4.11.16
Today’s topic is “Tips for Caring for Someone in the Early Stages of Alzheimer’s.”
Caregiver: anyone who provides care for another person in need, such as a child, aging parent, spouse, relative, friend or neighbor. A caregiver also may be a paid professional who provides care in the home or another location.
Fact: According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, the typical American caregiver is a 46-year-old employed female Baby Boomer with some college education who works full- or part-time. She spends more than 20 hours a week caring for her mother, who lives nearby. She balances family, work and caregiving duties for an average of 4.3 years.
Most Americans will be informal caregivers at some point during their lives. A 2012 survey found that 36% of Americans provided unpaid care to another adult with an illness or disability in the past year. That percentage is expected to go up as the proportion of elderly in the United States increases.
When you become a caregiver to someone in the early- to mild stage of Alzheimer’s, the first thing you might notice is the struggle between wanting to do things for the person diagnosed with the disease and wondering if you should. You might wonder, “Is it better to let them be independent and do things for themselves or should I do it for them?”
If you’re a caregiver, in this stage of the disease it’s more productive to refrain from doing things for the individual that they can do themselves. It’s also important to encourage independence as much—and as often—as possible.
As a caregiver, it’s your job to act as an advocate and resource. You’re to observe without interfering, unless an activity involves possible physical danger or abuse. You have to know when to let the individual take control, when you should share in the decision-making and when you should take the lead.
Whether you’re a caregiver or suffering from the disease, you also should:
· Learn as much about Alzheimer’s as you can before problems arise.
· Be proactive.
· Check with your family physician for a thorough medical exam if you suspect something’s wrong.
· Visit a geriatric assessment center or other medical facility specializing in Alzheimer’s or dementia. There are many causes of dementia and sometimes it can be treated.
· Try to understand and discuss the remaining brain functions and those that are lost, based on what the individual with dementia is experiencing.
· Share with other family members who want to know more about the disease.
· Call a family meeting to discuss life transitions and changing stresses in the family. You may want to consider including the individual with dementia in the discussion.
· Be ready for your own denial and denial by your loved one and other family members that the disease is affecting someone you care deeply about.
· Be open in discussing the information that you, your spouse, family member or friend has Alzheimer’s.
· Talk with a spiritual counselor about how you’re feeling. They can help you sort out what’s fact and what’s feeling.
· Seek counsel with your relatives, friends and counselors at your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. If you’re your own caregiver, lay out a plan for your long-term comfort and care.
· Identify family, friends and outside sources who will help you when you carry the burden of full responsibility for overseeing all issues of daily life.
· Be prepared to take the leadership role in all activities of daily living.
· Educate yourself on the resources available from the local and/or national chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association. Even a limited knowledge can help you help others who might become a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
· Learn about the subtle changes that arise in each of the key functions of the brain as the disease progresses.
· Be an active listener and really hear what’s important to the person you’re caring for. They may want to talk about sensitive issues, such as long-term care or power of attorney. They may want to tell you things they’re aware of that are causing them concern. Remember, the disease will set the pace for what’s to come. In many instances, the person you’re caring for might not want to prepare for the future. Don’t force the dialogue. Just move forward on those issues at their pace. There will be times when a physician will suggest that certain steps be taken. Follow them whenever you can.
Whether you suffer from Alzheimer’s or care for someone who does, you’re likely to ask yourself “What’s my purpose in life? What am I supposed to do now? How am I to live life in the most productive way possible?”
If you’re the caregiver, it’s a matter of keeping in mind the dignity inside the person battling the disease and constantly finding new ways to honor that dignity. You’re there to help that person grow and mature with the capabilities they still have. Try to have enough self-discipline to stop before you act or speak and ask yourself “What’s going on here? Is this person I’m caring for intentionally doing this or that…or saying this or that…to make life difficult or is it the disease acting out?”
For the person with Alzheimer’s, it’s a matter of continuing to do what’s possible for as long as possible. Find ways to cope with situations that will help you remember appointments, people and other details of daily living. Throughout life, we all have to deal with loss, whether Alzheimer’s is the cause or not.
That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I hope this information was helpful.
Join me at 1 pm Saturday when I’ll discuss more caregiver tips.