Alzheimer's and Caring for Your Loved One
Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia that robs people of their memories and the ability to care for themselves. It's a complex disease that affects millions of people. However, it not only affects the person suffering from the disease, but it also affects their families. The person who has Alzheimer's is dependent on others and requires constant supervision. Because of the round-the-clock care the disease requires, family members often turn into caregivers.
Alzheimer's Disease Explained
Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative brain disease resulting in declining cognitive function and is the most widely known form of dementia. Everyone has billions of neurons in their brain. These specialized cells process and send information to other parts of the brain and throughout the human body via the central nervous system. But with Alzheimer's Disease, these neurons begin dying at a faster rate than that of normal aging.
Scientists suspect these neurons begin dying and cannot repair themselves due to a combination of beta-amyloid proteins forming plaque and tau proteins building up in the brain. This combination of plaque and protein results in a build-up that blocks neuron communication pathways. While Alzheimer's is extensively studied and more is learned about it each day, there is still no cure.
Common Symptoms of Alzheimer's
In the beginning, Alzheimer's is usually brushed off as brain fog or a normal part of aging. However, these symptoms progress over time and eventually become more noticeable to everyone around them. Symptoms are similar to other types of dementia and include:
1. Memory Loss
The person might begin forgetting significant names, dates, or something someone told them moments ago.
2. Trouble With Everyday Tasks
They may forget how to do basic things like tie their shoes, turn on the stove, or get dressed.
3. Problems With Language
The person's speech becomes more challenging, and they may have trouble remembering certain words, mispronouncing words as they're reading, or trouble with their handwriting.
4. Issue With Planning and Problem Solving
Issues with everyday math like adding, multiplication, etc., can become difficult. They might become unable to follow directions or act accordingly during a challenging situation.
5. Behavioral Issues
The person might seem different from their typical demeanor. For example, they might suddenly have a short fuse or yell inappropriately. They might also seem anxious, paranoid, or delusional.
How Alzheimer's Affects Families
Alzheimer's is a disease that creates many challenges for families. It affects multiple generations of family members and can cause families to feel overwhelmed at times. When a person develops Alzheimer's, they will become progressively worse over time. Even with treatment, they will become dependent on their family for everyday needs.
Eventually, the person living with Alzheimer's will need to be supervised twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Naturally, you will want to keep your loved one comfortable and at home for as long as possible. Therefore, we've jotted down the best tips to help you care for your loved one.
1. Keep a Strict Routine
Having a consistent routine is one of the best ways you can help your loved one. Have them wake up, shower, and eat meals at the same time each day.
Create a system in the home for reminders about appointments, when to take medication, and other important parts of their day.
3. Let Them Do It
Try to allow them to do everything they can on their own for as long as they can. Not only will they appreciate you for this, but it will help keep their cognitive abilities as strong as possible.
4. Provide Daily Activities
Try to incorporate recreational activities into their daily routine. Games like Scrabble and working puzzles also help to keep their mind and memory sharp. Taking them on walks or to the park can reduce stress and improve fitness.
5. Take a Few Minutes for Yourself
Caring for someone with Alzheimer's is a full-time job. Don't forget to schedule time alone to relax and care for yourself so that you don't become overwhelmed and over-stressed.
How the CDPAP Program Can Help
New York State's Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP) can help. CDPAP is a Medicaid program through which a consumer or their designated representative can choose the caregiver of their choice (with a few exceptions) to help with activities of daily living and be compensated for the hours that they work.
Want to learn more? Contact Elite Choice, a fiscal intermediary awarded Lead FI for CDPAP across all 62 counties across NY State.
Written by: Leah Ganz
Leah Ganz, RN, BSN is the Director of Patient Services at Elite Home Health Care. She has an extensive background in homecare and previously worked in various specialties including pediatrics, pain management and internal medicine. She oversees all patient services across Elite's departments.