Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
One of the most devastating diseases to affect mankind, Alzheimer’s is a top killer of people across the world. While other main causes of death slowly decline, deaths related to Alzheimer’s are rapidly on the rise. And while Alzheimer’s disease is incurable, there are signs of hope. People are becoming increasingly aware of this disease, which is important for early diagnosis, and many new drugs show promise of helping to relieve and manage symptoms.
If you find yourself caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s, you’re in for a potentially long and certainly difficult road. Here are some of the things you should know about what will likely be the hardest job you’ve ever had.
Much of what you know-whether good, bad, or ugly-you were taught by your parents. They were the ones who taught you how to get dressed, how to eat with manners, how to function in society, how to be safe around strangers, and how to make the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
When Alzheimer’s shows up, the affected parent is no longer to do the things he or she taught you to do. Often, an individual with Alzheimer’s has the appearance and the physical abilities of a healthy adult but has the memory and mental judgment of a toddler. Because of this, they’re no longer safe near roads, driving a car, managing money, using appliances, or even staying by themselves for long periods of time. Suddenly, you’re in charge of protecting your aging parent, and the role reversal can be difficult to understand and accept.
A Balancing Act
When you take on the responsibility of being caregiver for a parent with Alzheimer’s, you will immediately recognize the challenge of learning to balance a job, family, and other responsibilities with caring for a parent with this degenerative disease. For many, the role of caregiver is like having a second full-time job. Financial stress, changes in the family dynamic, and the amount of work required to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming and take a toll on one’s emotional and physical well-being. The more you know about this disease and the more support you have, the easier your road will be.
As a caregiver, know your limits. To avoid burnout, have emotional and physical support, respite, and take care of yourself. You can’t do it all alone, and if you try, you will never have the balance necessary to provide good care for your loved one.
Points to Consider
When Alzheimer’s is suspected, it is helpful to formulate a plan as a family. Consider meeting with an attorney to know your options. Get your loved one’s wishes about finances and healthcare on paper as soon as possible, and determine power of attorney for these important decisions.
A difficult decision may have to be made regarding where the loved one will live. Is he or she still safe in their home, and if so, for how long? If a nursing home or assisted living is a last resort, other options are available for help at home. These include hired caregivers, adult day cars, or respite care (short-term care in a facility).
Remember that no two people experience Alzheimer’s the same. The one constant is the need for a set routine for your loved one. Structure, consistency, and familiarity are important for those with Alzheimer’s, and performing the same tasks at the same times each day will help your loved one experience the least amount of Alzheimer’s-related frustration.
Caring for a loved one when they can’t care for themselves is a true act of selfless love, kindness, and loyalty. Being a caregiver is definitely worth the challenge, though it often comes with little thanks and few rewards this side of eternity.
Did you know that more women than men are affected by Alzheimer’s? Not only are women more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, but middle-aged women are also more likely to be the caregivers for an Alzheimer’s patient.