It is estimated that more than six million people in the US suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Age is the leading risk factor known for Alzheimer’s.
People with Alzheimer’s experience difficulty completing daily tasks such as cooking, driving, or remembering to pay the bills. Patients have been known to lose their way, repetitively ask the same questions, or become confused even with simple or routine tasks. Over time, as the disorder progresses, some individuals manifest erratic or extreme behavior such as anger and anxiety.
If someone suffering from Alzheimer’s is in your care, your primary role will be to help manage the patient’s daily tasks for them. Read on for advice on better managing the care for a person with Alzheimer’s.
The progressive neurological disease Alzheimer’s disease causes a person’s brain to atrophy and brain cells to deteriorate. It is a common cause of the decline in cognitive functions, including behavior and ability to function.
The most common early sign of Alzheimer’s is the inability to recall recent events. Severe memory impairment and deterioration of normal function are characteristics of the disease as it progresses.
Though certain medications may alleviate or delay the progression of symptoms, there is no definitive cure for Alzheimer’s known so far. In the disease’s advanced stages, the deterioration of brain function may result in medical complications such as infection, malnutrition, dehydration, and, eventually, death.
Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
Memory loss is the leading symptom of Alzheimer’s. A person suffering from the disease will show increasing difficulty remembering past events, even recent ones. In its early stages, a person may just exhibit forgetfulness, but the severity of this memory impairment will increase as other symptoms develop.
The progressive deterioration of the brain will manifest in the following symptoms:
Though it is not uncommon for people to have occasional lapses in memory, a person with dementia’s memory abilities will decline progressively, eventually affecting their ability to function normally.
A person with Alzheimer’s may be observed to:
- Repeat statements
- Ask the same questions repetitively
- Forget names of ordinary objects and family members
- Forget recent conversations, events, or set appointments
- Misplace objects frequently
- Lose their way in once-familiar areas
Deteriorated Thought Process
A person with Alzheimer’s has difficulty concentrating and may easily be confused by numbers and other abstract concepts. Multi-tasking becomes challenging.
Affected Judgment and Decision-making
A person with Alzheimer’s shows a decline in making rational decisions in daily situations. They may dress inappropriately, leave a stovetop on for too long, or drive erratically, and so on. Basic tasks like bathing, dressing up, and eating become a struggle.
Personality and Behavior Changes
Alzheimer’s causes brain deterioration that affects a patient’s moods, behaviors, and personality. A person with Alzheimer’s may show signs of:
- Irritability or aggressiveness
- Paranoia and delusions
- Sleep disturbances
A person with Alzheimer’s is easily agitated, especially because simple tasks become increasingly difficult. To alleviate feelings of frustration:
- Establish a routine. Schedule tasks such as bathing and doctor’s appointments for times in the day when the patient is usually alert and calm.
- Be flexible. Expect that tasks may take longer than usual. Allow for breaks in between tasks.
- Allow the patient a reasonable level of autonomy. You may allow them to dress themselves after you’ve laid out their clothes or create visual cues to aid them in, say watering plants or setting the dinner table.
- Provide a few choices for them. For example, allow them to decide whether they would like to watch TV or go outside for a walk.
- Give only simple instructions.
- Regulate napping. Multiple or extended naps during the day may cause disorientation.
- Reduce distractions and allow them to focus on a single task. For instance, keep the TV turned off during mealtimes.
As the disease progresses, an individual with Alzheimer’s will grow more and more dependent. Maintain flexibility and adaptability to minimize feelings of frustration. For instance, if the person likes wearing the same clothes every day, you may just purchase identical outfits. If the patient resists bath times, consider adjusting the frequency.
Create a safe environment
- Remove fall risks. Minimize or remove area rugs, long extension cords, or clutter. Install bars and handrails in critical spots.
- Use locks. Install safety locks on cabinets, cupboards, or refrigerators where they can get dangerous or toxic tools or substances.
- Keep temperatures in check. Monitor space heaters, air conditioning, and water heater thermostats.
- Improve fire safety. Keep lighters, matches, and candles out of reach. Ensure smoke detectors and fire alarms are in order and keep a fire extinguisher accessible.
Each person with Alzheimer’s may show a unique progression of symptoms. It is vital to adapt and devote time to the individual’s structured care. If you feel that you are not equipped to provide them with the quality of life they need, you may consider finding a suitable nursing home offering customized care and treatment programs.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that gradually destroys memory and cognitive skills, eventually leading to a decline in basic functions. As someone caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, it is crucial to remain flexible and adaptable as you create and follow daily routines and improved monitoring and safety precautions.