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Alzheimer’s Awareness: Tips for Caregivers & Families

Alzheimer’s disease takes a toll on both people with dementia and caregivers. The complex cognitive and behavioral changes make it hard to know whether a loved one is simply acting out or showing signs of Alzheimer’s.

Caregivers often experience high rates of stress and depression, feelings of burnout, or neglect their own health and well-being. Education is an important first step, so you know what to expect and the best ways to support your loved one and yourself.    

Setting up a care plan for Alzheimer’s disease

Educate yourself 

Read and learn about Alzheimer’s disease, its signs and symptoms, and how the disease progresses. Document behavior and mood changes. Encourage your loved one to seek a medical diagnosis or request a neuropsychological evaluation from their doctor.

Be proactive 

Get organized and have the right legal documents in place. This includes end-of-life care wishes, such as the type of medical treatments they want. Knowing what to expect and where and how to seek help can help you navigate the disease and monitor changes in your loved ones.

Be involved 

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia often involves a team of people to treat it. If possible, you may want to schedule and attend as many doctor’s appointments as you can. This way you can work with doctors to coordinate a care plan. You can also stay on top of what is going on and discuss any changes or concerns with the appropriate provider.

Be realistic 

You are only one person. You may not be able to do it all, especially if you work full-time or live several hours away. Be realistic about ways you can help. You may have to hire respite care, agree to make weekly or monthly visits to attend important appointments or manage medication, or consider when your loved one may need assisted living or nursing home care.

Get legal affairs in order 

Caregivers should also complete a HIPAA authorization form, review care plans and medications with doctors, and consider legal and financial matters. You may want to work with an attorney to create a medical power of attorney and/or financial power of attorney and also talk with your loved one about advance care directives.

Lifestyle tips for managing Alzheimer’s disease

 

Maintain daily routines

This helps people cope with short-term memory loss and confusion. Encourage your loved one to bathe, get dressed, and eat at a set time each day.

Encourage physical and mental activity 

Regular exercise and mental activity can slow cognitive changes. Support your loved one’s desire to be independent and encourage reading and other activities like puzzles and hobbies. Depending on their mobility, taking walks together may be a way you can bond and support your own health.

Monitor their meals 

Poor nutrition or nutritional deficiencies can affect brain health and accelerate cognitive changes. Your loved one might avoid eating, but it is important to maintain a healthy diet and eat regular meals. If you help prepare their meals, it is a win-win because you can also eat healthy too.   

Seek support

Don’t carry the weight of caregiving alone. There are countless organizations dedicated to helping aging adults and their caregivers, including The Senior Alliance and Area on Aging Agencies. Find a case manager or social worker to help navigate Medicare, free programs, and in-home care options. See what services your loved one may qualify for so it takes some of the burden off of you.

Take time for self-care

Caregivers often wear many hats, juggle many obligations, and feel torn between caregiving duties and their own personal lives. Don’t forget to take care of your own mental and physical health. Make sure to stay on top of your own sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Take time for a daily walk, treat yourself to a massage, or find a trusted therapist who can support you as you set boundaries.  

Resources for Alzheimer’s caregivers

Each person with Alzheimer’s is unique. The disease can present and progress in different ways. That is why what works for one caregiver may not work for another.

Complicated family dynamics and child-parent relationships can add to caregiver stress. The good news is there are many free resources available to help caregivers navigate the journey.

The Senior Alliance: We understand that caregiving comes with many responsibilities and have created a Caregiving Haven on our website dedicated to caregiving. You will find resources, educational materials, and support designed to answer your questions or connect you with people who can.  

Local senior centers and support groups: You may want to find a local community support group, online forums, and Facebook groups, or paid therapy to process feelings of stress, worry, and overwhelm. This is especially important if you are caregiving long distance. Contact the senior center or Area on Aging where your loved one lives and see what services are available.

 The Alzheimer’s Association: The go-to for research and support, The Alzheimer’s Association has useful resources, including an online chat option and 24/7 helpline. You can call the helpline and speak with a dementia expert for confidential support or get connected to local resources. 

 Whatever stage of caregiving you are in, you do not have to face it alone. It is essential you take care of your own well-being and reach out when you feel overwhelmed.

You can call The Senior Alliance at (734) 722-2830  to speak with an Information & Assistance Specialist. The Information and Assistance Call Center is a free service offering resource options for older adults and caregivers.

 The call center staff can discuss The Senior Alliance programs and services and connect you to the many programs and services available in the 34 communities in The Senior Alliance service area.

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