While it is hard to cope with any sort of illness as a caregiver, Alzheimer’s disease can be particularly challenging. As it ravages the brain, the person you once knew and loved begins to slip away, and ultimately, disappear—something that can be very painful to watch. Mood swings and personality changes can make it difficult to deal with your loved one; it also impacts physical health and capabilities. As a caregiver to someone with this terrible disease, you have a lot on your plate; here are some tips to help cope with this role.
Establish an Exercise Routine
If your loved one currently lacks a set exercise program, it may be time to seriously consider adding that to the daily list of activities. Recent research, which sought to compile advice for caregivers of Alzheimer patients, found that certain types of exercise appear to be particularly beneficial for patients with this disease. Resistance training had the greatest effect on cognitive function; study subjects assigned to this type of exercise showed the most improvement in tests. It also appeared to positively affect key areas of the cortex, which is heavily involved in various types of memory. Cardiovascular exercise is also important for cardiovascular health, overall energy, restful sleep and reducing depression and anxiety.
Keep Your Loved One Engaged
Lack of social activities and hobbies can increase feelings of isolation and depression; when it comes to Alzheimer’s, this may hasten the progression of the disease. Another study that was part of the overall presentation for caregiver advice, found that a decline in social activity and time spent outside the home may be correlated with worsening symptoms. For the benefit of both you and your loved one, it is important to keep them engaged socially and mentally as best you can. A mix of activities that stimulate the different senses is a good idea—good tactile activities, for example, may be working with clay or gardening; anything that involves the outdoors is always good—lots of different stimuli and it can be very therapeutic to spend time in nature. Looking into group activities at a senior center or other type of facility can be an excellent way to maintain social interaction with peers.
Reduce Frustrations of Your Loved One
The changes this disease produces can result in a great deal of frustration for your loved one, and the more frustrated they are, the more frustrated you will be. Taking steps to reduce it will help day to day living run more smoothly, which will be of enormous benefit to both of you. Setting up a routine that you can stick to daily as best you can help—knowing what to expect and when can help soothe any anxieties; when it comes to dealing with more challenging tasks, look to schedule them at a time when your loved one is at his most docile and agreeable.
But, as far as routine goes, it is also important to be flexible as things may not always go as planned; also, it is important to consider when you may be able to forgo something. For example, if bathing has become a major challenge, perhaps it is not necessary to do it daily. Allow ample time to get various tasks done so you do not feel the need to rush the person. Provide fewer choices—if you are deciding what to wear for the day, instead of letting the person rummage through the entire closet, present two outfits and have him choose. An important part of dealing with caregiver stress is doing what we can to minimize the stress of the disease on the person you are caring for.
About the Author: Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who writes about various health and wellness topics; if you are a caregiver in need of helpful information to manage this challenging role, she highly recommends you visit Lift Caregiving for a wide range of articles and other resources.