Caring for a Loved one with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Caring for a Loved one with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

If you have an elderly loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it can feel impossible to properly navigate all of the challenges of the disease. On top of the medical needs a dementia patient may require, families of dementia patients also experience a unique pain in witnessing the mental deterioration of their loved one. If you’re taking the role as either a primary or part-time caregiver of your elderly family member, it undoubtedly adds even more stress to an already difficult and painful process.

Senior with Alzheimer’s


Responding to the Various Stages of Alzheimer’s and Dementia:

The memory loss associated with dementia causes frustration and emotional pain not only for the patient, but for their family members. No one can fully prepare for the heartbreaking experience of witnessing their loved one lose a lifetime of memories. However, knowing what to expect in the various stages of Alzheimer’s or other forms dementia can help you bear the emotional hardships that come while caring for you’re loved one.

The Three Stages of Dementia

Most forms of dementia progress in three stages, generalized as “mild”, “moderate” and “severe”.

  • Mild, or early stage dementia can cause forgetfulness in daily tasks and social interactions but usually someone at this stage can still be fairly independent.
  • Moderate state of dementia is defined by far more confusion, including disorientation of time and place, and trouble remembering their personal history.  This stage is usually when you can start to easily recognize the effects of the disease. Someone in this stage is likely to need extra care picking out clothes to wear, preparing meals, assistance making it to the bathroom, and help to not get lost in public places.
  • Late stage, severe dementia requires around the clock care. Physical capabilities such as walking, speaking, and eating decline, and they often engage in very few responses to their surroundings.

Interacting with Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

As a family member or friend of someone in the late stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, seeing their decline in capabilities can be especially disheartening. When they are still verbal, it may feel frustrating to converse with them or to try to connect with them.

Remember to practice patience with your loved one and work at avoiding conflict. It may be challenging at times, but  don’t argue with them even, if they become upset or excited by something that seems irrational. Prepare yourself to practice forgiveness, and do your best to speak clearly and simply.

Connecting with Someone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Research suggests than even after someone loses the bulk of their memories and speaking capabilities, they still retain a core sense of self that you may still be able to connect with. You may be able to connect better with your loved one through their non-verbal senses.

You can try playing them their favorite music, showing them family photos, or even giving them candles or scented lotion that they may remember the smell of.

The way you might communicate with your loved one during the late stages of dementia may change and will certainly be different than what you are used to. It may feel disheartening and be a difficult adjustment. However, making an effort to enjoy quality moments together, can pay off.

Practicing Self-Care When Caregiving for a Loved One

In juggling the many needs of an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient, the challenge of maintaining your own wellbeing often falls through the cracks. Not only are there many responsibilities you take on when you assume the role of caring for you elderly loved one, you also face the emotional challenges of facing the progression of Alzheimer’s or dementia in someone you love.

Family members of dementia patients make up more than 40 million Americans who serve as part time or full time unpaid caregivers. They often juggle work, family, and their own personal wellbeing alongside this task. In the midst of the sometimes demanding duties of caring for an elderly family member with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it is important to take time for your own physical and psychological health as much as possible.

Caregivers should understand that they may be at risk for a variety of health impacts. They are very real and should not be minimized.

Caregivers Face Increased Anxiety, Depression and Physical Illness

Family members of dementia patients are understandably susceptible to intense anxiety and depression. Although emotional pain will understandably exist when watching a loved one suffer from dementia, it can be more intense for family members or friends that become caregivers. Caregivers deserve and should seek out the assistance necessary to alleviate this emotional strife.

Furthermore, caregivers can also suffer from preventable health risks that they may not even know about. Unpaid Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers experience an alarming rate of physical illnesses, such as a lasting compromised immune system, and even a shortened lifespan due to added stress.

How to Help Caregivers of Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients

This reality may sound daunting, but the burdens of caregiving are not hopeless. With a strong support system, caregivers can alleviate the emotional and physical tolls that they may be experiencing. Understanding the importance of taking time to attend to your personal health can help to create a stronger, happier and healthier mind and body while attending and helping your senior loved one.

Feel Comfortable Reaching Out For Help:

As for anyone experiencing high stress levels, setting aside free time for enjoyable and healthy activities serves as a simple first step in preventing anxiety and depression. In the mind of a caregiver, however, the phrase “free time” often sounds like an unobtainable luxury.

So how can you care for yourself when your world seems to revolve around providing the necessary care for your loved one?

Developing the ability to reach out to others for help can drastically improve your life as a caregiver. Learning to reach out for help may seem simple, but the idea of handing over the reigns to either another family member or a professional caregiver can often feel unthinkable.

If you find it difficult to reach out, following a few recommendations on asking for help may be useful.

  • First, understand that it is not selfish to need a break. Remember that there is no shame in asking others for help, especially when you feel overwhelmed.
  • When a friend or family member does agree to help in caregiving responsibilities, make sure to direct them in a specific way they can assist. You can ask them to prepare a meal for your loved one, perform daily errands, or simply spend time with the person. Providing others with targeted ways in which they can relieve your role as caregiver will make their aid more meaningful and impactful. Not everyone has friends and family members to help with caregiving duties. Don’t be afraid to seek out a professional caregiver for short period of times. Whether that be an hour or two every once in a while, or a day or two each week, you a certified caregiver can give you the time you need to run errands and practice self-care.  

Joining a caregiving support group for those with family members and friends that have been diagnosed with dementia serves as great resource that many find consoling and helpful. Being able to talk to others outside of your own family and circle who share similar experiences can make your own experience feel less solitary. Hearing other people who have first hand experience in dementia caregiving can offer you a comforting and understanding perspective through challenging times.

Explore All Caregiving Options

When an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient reaches a stage that requires more intensive and full time care, you may want to consider all of the caregiving options available.

There are many approaches to caregiving both inside and outside of the home, involving varying degrees of hands on care from their family. Professional caregiving services can be broken down into facility care options and in home care options.

Facility Care Options

  • Adult day care is a good caregiving option when a family wants to continue to care for their loved one but has work or other obligations during the day. Adult day care facilities offer supervision, therapy, and a safe environment for your loved one while you attend to other responsibilities.
  • Assisted living caters mainly to patients who need aid in many daily tasks but do not need skilled medical care yet. A patient can live in a home, apartment, or room with laundry, cleaning and food services, but no skilled medical personnel.
  • Nursing home care offers skilled medical care, with in-house licensed medical professionals. Residents of a nursing home receive around the clock care, full housekeeping, bathing, and meal services. Residents receive the medical attention they need and can often participate in planned social activities.
  • Memory care shares many similarities with nursing home care, however memory care facilities are designed for specifically for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Many memory care facilities employ experts in dementia care and are usually contained within a larger care facility like a nursing home. Having a more targeted therapy and an environment that caters to someone experiencing memory loss can be a great benefit to a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

In Home Care

In home care can be administered by family members, professional services, or a combination of these. It can also include varying degrees of medical services.

For those who are able to provide caregiving for their loved one, it might be beneficial to consider also utilizing a respite care service, which provides short term service for scheduled periods of time to relieve family caregivers. The amount of professional home care you employ can always be increased or adjusted depending on your loved one’s depth of medical needs.

Home care services typically assist patients in daily needs such as dressing, preparing meals, and grooming. Home health care offers the addition of  licensed medical professionals, which may be beneficial to seniors who require more in depth medical attention in addition to basic dementia care.

Caring for Your Loved One and Yourself

If your family member has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, you probably feel tasked with the stressful responsibility of providing the best care for your loved one on top of the onslaught of emotions that dementia families experience.

It might seem impossible to balance the importance of free time and personal rejuvenation with the many obligations you feel as a caregiver.

Reaching out for both emotional support and medical expertise can significantly ease stress. Speaking with a variety of in home care providers can help you form a better idea of how you want to approach caregiving for your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Moreover, remember that in the midst of your dedicated care, your own wellbeing is valid and important.

When you choose New Wave Home Care, you can rest easy knowing that your loved one is getting the specialized care they need from a trusted, friendly caregiver. Contact us for more information.


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