Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or memory loss can be difficult. Separating the disease continuum (unnoticeable changes to problems with mental and physical abilities) into stages can be helpful in navigating care. And as an individual’s needs and abilities change, it’s important to care for yourself, too. Here are some tips for care partners in each stage...
Early: In the mild (or early) stage, most people can function independently in many areas but likely to require assistance with some activities to maximize independence and remain safe.
Monitor shifts in functioning
Prepare for appointments by:
Choosing times together
Discussing and monitoring changes
Noting questions and concerns
Reviewing care plans as a team
Optimize the person’s sense of well-being through:
Middle: In the moderate stage, which is often the longest stage, individuals may have difficulties communicating and performing routine tasks, including activities of daily living and personality changes.
Maintain the person’s sense of self as you assist with daily care
Care partners must modify communication in order to best connect
Educate those close to you about the disease, which may mean taking the initiative to contact family and friends
Discuss adjustments to special events/holiday traditions
Acknowledge that the disease will change the nature of your relationship
Structure and routine are important in the middle stage – you may have to modify activities to meet the person’s changing abilities
Begin considering options for care: In-home care, adult day programs, respite care, or residential settings, such as skilled nursing, licensed assisted living, or licensed assisted living with dementia care
Late stage: In the severe stage, individuals need help with activities of daily living and are likely to require around-the-clock care. The effects of Alzheimer’s disease on an individual’s physical health become especially apparent in this stage.
Remember that a person isn’t “lost” to the disease –– remember a holistic view of the late stage
Incorporate physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of care
Increase focus on the person’s self with person-centered care, and include the person in providing care
Understand that the care role is more physically demanding at this stage
Taking care of yourself needs to be a priority
Verbal messages shift to non-verbal cues
Focus on remaining abilities
As you care for others, make sure to take time to care for yourself. Here are some self-care tips:
Find time for yourself – schedule it!
Know what community resources are available
Senior Linkage Line
Become an educated caregiver
Get help and find support
Ask for specific help from friends and family
Join support groups or Facebook groups
Take care of yourself – eat well, sleep, exercise
Manage your level of stress – say “no” to things but try to keep involved in what gives you joy and purpose
Accept changes as they occur
Make legal and financial plans
Know you’re doing your best – don’t be too hard on yourself
Visit your doctor regularly – you don’t do anyone any favors if you make yourself sick
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or memory loss can be challenging, but it can also be extremely rewarding. And you don’t have to do it alone. We’re here for you.