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Dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer's


Dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurological disorder which poses immense challenges for patients and their caregivers. In this journey, family members and healthcare providers play a pivotal role in offering compassionate care and support. Their support not only assists the physical needs but most importantly the patient's emotional and psychological well-being.  


Kelly Short McCollough, Director of NeoHealth helps us take a closer look at how families can enhance the quality of life for loved ones living with Alzheimer's.

 

Understand the Disease:

 

Alzheimer's disease is characterized by cognitive decline, memory loss, and changes in behavior and personality. As the condition progresses, individuals may struggle with daily tasks, communication, and recognising loved ones. It will help if families possess a deep understanding of Alzheimer's and learn from books, the Internet, support groups and healthcare professionals to help tailor the care plan that accommodates the unique needs of their loved ones. 

 

Building Trust and Compassion:

 

Establishing trust is fundamental in caring for Alzheimer's patients. Families should create a safe and supportive environment where their loved one feels valued and respected. Simple gestures like maintaining eye contact, using soothing tones, and offering reassurance can foster a sense of security and ease anxiety. Alzheimer's often manifests in behavioral changes such as agitation, aggression, or withdrawal. Families should employ compassionate strategies to address these behaviors, including distraction techniques, redirection, and validation therapy. Additionally, maintaining a calm and patient demeanor can help de-escalate challenging situations.

 

Communication:

 

Communication skills are paramount when caring for a patient with Alzheimer's. Family members must employ clear, concise language and non-verbal cues to facilitate understanding. Additionally, active listening allows the family to empathise and address concerns effectively. Patience and flexibility are key as communication strategies may need to evolve as the disease progresses.

 

Empowerment:

Preserving independence and autonomy is essential for maintaining dignity and self-esteem. Families can empower the Alzheimer patient by encouraging participation in decision-making and providing opportunities for meaningful activities. Simple tasks such as dressing, grooming, and meal preparation can be structured to promote independence while offering necessary support.

 

Familiarity:

 

Familiarity can provide a sense of comfort and stability for Alzheimer's patients. Home nurses can incorporate familiar routines, objects, and surroundings into the care environment to reduce confusion and agitation. Familiar faces, music, and photographs can evoke positive memories and foster connections with the past.

 

Home healthcare is a real help as certified nurses can play a crucial role in supporting not only patients but also their caregivers and families. Educating caregivers about Alzheimer's disease, providing practical advice, and offering emotional support can alleviate the burden and stress associated with caregiving. Furthermore, connecting caregivers with community resources and support groups can enhance their coping skills and resilience.

 

As Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, care plans must be continually reassessed and adapted to meet evolving needs. Nurses should monitor changes in cognition, behavior, and physical health, collaborating with interdisciplinary teams to optimize care strategies. Flexibility and creativity are essential in navigating the complex challenges presented by Alzheimer's.

 

While caring for a lady with Alzheimer’s, I quickly realised how much they remember about their younger lives. As a young woman, this now 90 year old had become the first ever female accountant in England.  She was so proud of this achievement and spoke about it like it had just happened, as though she was living it right now. We celebrated her achievements with her and allowed her to tell us all about it. They cannot access recent memories but those memories from their earlier years seem clear as though they are almost living them now. Engaging with them is so important. Allowing them to talk about such topics makes them feel comfortable. The world can be a strange and sometimes frightening place for someone with Alzheimer’s so travelling with them to where they seem comfortable is so important.

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