Far from being a normal part of the aging process, Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain that causes gradual memory loss and progressively becomes worse over time. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and affects over 5.5 million Americans. While many elderly people can struggle with memory problems, Alzheimer’s disease causes nerve clusters in the brain to die. This can lead to many problems, starting with simple forgetfulness.
An Alzheimer’s patient can easily chalk their memory troubles up to old age, as they forget names and struggle to find items like car keys. As the disease progresses, however, this gradual memory loss becomes worse and worse. Eventually, they may forget simple skills such as how to brush their teeth, wander away from home, and even fail to recognize their loved ones.
It can be truly heartbreaking to watch a loved one deteriorate from the effects of this disease, especially when you feel powerless to help. While there is as yet no cure for this debilitating condition, there are ways you can improve the day to day lives of those living with Alzheimer’s disease. This guide will offer a few ways you can help boost a patient’s quality of life.
1. Create a Calming Environment
Alzheimer’s patients can become easily overwhelmed by external stimuli. It helps them to have a calm environment where there are not too many stressors to cause them anxiety. An area that is loud or chaotic can easily exhaust or stress out a person with Alzheimer’s.
With this in mind, avoid visiting areas that are crowded. If you must head out to run errands, wait until the slowest time of day to do so. Try to keep the home from becoming too loud as well. Often, homes can become just as chaotic as shopping malls, with children, and televisions and radios all blaring at the same time. Keep the volume on electronic devices low and tell children they must remain quiet when they are around the person living with Alzheimer’s.
You should also try to avoid large gatherings as these can also stress out the patient. Even family members can be stressful to be around; so try to have family events with smaller groups in order to avoid causing undue stress to your loved one.
2. Develop a Regular Routine
Gradual memory loss is one of the worst aspects of Alzheimer’s disease. People afflicted with the disease can easily lose track of their basic day to day routines, even forgetting simple tasks. Keeping a routine in writing can go a long way toward helping your loved one remember when they need to do certain things.
Try to keep the schedule as regular as possible. If you must make a large change to your schedule, you should make sure to remind the person as much as possible. Leave notes around as well; notes left by the bedside or on the refrigerator can help your loved one to remember appointments and other important tasks.
Often using mnemonic devices can help with memory as well. For example, try wearing the same color shirt when you are going to be in large crows and tell them to remember what color shirt you are wearing when in a large crowd. That way they can find you more easily if you accidentally become separated.
Change can often be difficult for an Alzheimer’s patient, and so you should put in an effort to minimize changes as much as possible as even the slightest shift in routine can be jarring to someone who has memory troubles.
3. Try to Stay Patient
At first, the gradual memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s may seem minor. Over time, the disease will progress and the patient will suffer from more and more severe problems. Ultimately, the patient may forget major aspects of their lives and may not even recognize their loved ones.
You must do your best to be patient with a person living with Alzheimer’s; it will often be difficult to do simple tasks such as folding laundry. Try not to become impatient, instead try to let them help as much as possible. If they attempt a task and do not succeed, don’t hesitate to assist.
Caring for a person afflicted with Alzheimer’s requires you to be gentle, loving, and patient as it’s often just as frustrating for them as it is for you. Alzheimer’s patients may become easily upset by things – they may begin to worry, for example, that there are intruders in their home – do not ignore their worries, but help to assuage them. Offer to make sure no one is there and check all of the doors. Never make a person with Alzheimer’s feel inadequate as their concerns, whether they seem legitimate or not to you, are very real and they deserve your unwavering support during this difficult transition in their lives.
4. Help The Individual Remain Independent
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, individuals who were once self-sustaining members of society begin to lose their independence. This may happen gradually or sudden, but the more aware they are that this is taking place, the more stressful the situation can become. They are not used to needing assistance from another to perform simple tasks like brushing their teeth and remembering appointments. They will lose the ability to drive their car and will not be able to leave the house without another ensuring they don’t get lost. This can leave them feeling frail, dejected, inadequate, and even depressed.
For this reason, it’s best to help them retain as much independence as possible. You will need to consider what your loved one can and cannot do within the parameters of their illness, but if you are able, allow them to help prepare a meal, live in their home as long as possible, ensure they are getting adequate time outside of the home, really anything that will make them feel like they are not completely losing their freedom.
5. Don’t be Afraid To Seek Help
Helping an Alzheimer’s patient get through the day may quickly become too much for a single person to take on. Consider getting help from professional organizations; sometimes your loved one may require a nurse to assist them. Gaining information from a reputable organization throughout the process, such as Memory Health Center, can give you a lot of useful information in regards to how to help someone afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease and assist you in finding ways to improve the quality of life of your love for years to come.