Learning how to deal with Alzheimer’s disease when a family caregiver
More and more families are turning to a home care professional for seniors with Alzheimer to help family caregivers, whether at home or with a family member.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, many people are still very autonomous. They do not see the need for a professional caregiver and they feel more confident with the family caregiver that they recognize.
It is important to respect their choice to remain independent as long as possible, as long as the disease is in the early stage or mild stage if you prefer.
People with Alzheimer’s disease feel better in a familiar environment where they can maintain their routine. Attention should be paid to precursor signs and to follow the progress of the disease and the appearance of health problems or important language problems such as memory loss and cognitive impairment.
As long as the parent is not in the advanced stage of the disease, does not require 24-hour supervision or palliative care, it will be beneficial to promote home care.
Accepting Alzheimer’s disease
Becoming a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s disease is not obvious. This change of role is imposed and it arrives in a moment charged with emotions. The family caregiver will have to go through several stages in accepting the illness that affects his relative.
Before denial and anger give way to the acceptance of Alzheimer’s disease, the caregiver who is often the spouse or one of the children will have to deal with various bereavement as the disease evolves, the mourning of the relationship previous to the disease that will totally transform over time, the mourning of his role as spouse or child and finally the mourning of normality because the person with Alzheimer’s disease will manifest unusual behaviours more and more frequently over time.
Once Alzheimer’s disease is accepted in his life, the family caregiver will also have to be resourceful in terms of communication; this is one of the keys to managing your relationship with the person with Alzheimer’s disease.
Advice to the family caregiver to better communicate with the person with Alzheimer’s disease
So many types of communication, so many strings to your bow:
● Verbal communication: sounds, words, concepts
● Non-verbal communication: expressions, affection, touch, behaviour, empathy
● Written communication: visual cues, letters, images, gestures
Go smoothly in your communications:
● Go slowly
● Gently touch the arm, hand, shoulder or face
● Give him / her time to think, to answer
● Speak clearly, make short sentences, say one thing at a time.
Master the field to convey the message:
● Control the environment: ward off distractions
● Make sure you get his attention
● Make eye contact by placing yourself in his field of vision
● Watch his body communication, non-verbal
● React to his emotions
● Repeat the same words
● Give visual clues.
● Avoid isolation of the affected person
● Ask simple questions that can be answered by yes/no/maybe/do not know. (Ex: Would you like to watch TV? Do you want to take a walk? Do you want a coffee?)
● Talk about the past, happy experiences. Use stimulating landmarks like photos, music, and more.
Learn to say no smoothly
● I wish I could but …
● It’s a good idea but now I do not have time.
● I think it’s too cold today, what do you think?
● Maybe next time
And if we still do not understand each other
● Show that you recognize the facts (Ex: I understand that it’s frustrating for you)
● Reassure the person (touch his arm, express empathy)
● Use a diversion (change subject, room or activity, return to something that the loved one likes or likes to do)
● Use validation (repeat the sentence and check his / her understanding, validate the feelings express and reassure him)
● The person with Alzheimer still has feelings. He/She will perceive and appreciate gestures of tenderness until the very end of her illness
● Emotions, gestures and touch are also a way of communicating.
● A caress or a smile can convey more than words
● Your body language also translates messages: a stern look or impatience can be as hard as words.
● Always try to include the affected person in your conversations: there is nothing more painful than hearing about yourself as if you were not there.
● Use visual memos: paste pictures on doors to identify the rooms. Also, identify household items of daily use.
Patience is the mother of all virtues with Alzheimer’s disease
It may be disturbing to see the capabilities of a loved one decline, but with the help of a knowledgeable professional caregiver, you can more easily accept change and adapt to it.
It is the responsibility of family caregivers and families to find information about available services for home care and home assistance services. They will have to make a decision for help because Alzheimer’s disease will have a huge impact on family caregivers, families and their friends.
Home help includes supervision and personal care (bathing aid, hygiene, meals at home, etc.) but also nursing and many other specialized care.
A professional caregiver will be of great help to you as the disease progresses, until you have to change site to provide appropriate care for your loved one.