In most instances, these pitfalls of caregiving can be avoided if the caregiver remembers to take care of themselves by taking time away to participate in activities they enjoy and provide respite from their caregiving duties. However there are other ways that caregivers can avoid these pitfalls in their day to day activities with their loved one.
First, try to incorporate as much “fun” as possible in the caregivers activities with their loved one. One of the most difficult duties faced by many caregivers is the management of difficult behaviors. These behaviors can include agitation, confusion, aggression, depression, wandering and sleep disruptions. There are many fun ways to manage these and other difficult behaviors. To do this it is important for caregivers to remember to NOT ARGUE with their loved one, STAY CALM and try to MAINTAIN A SENSE OF HUMOR.
These three rules of thumb when caregiving are not always easy to remember. Many behaviors occur multiple times throughout the day and the activities may be repeated several times. Try to create several management ideas for regularly occurring behavior to prevent redundancy for the caregiver.
Along with these three rules of thumb, the basic premise behind the management of most difficult behaviors when dealing with a loved one afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is to validate and distract. By validate, I mean, agree with the individual, and again, do not argue.
For example, if Joe say’s he has to “get going, he has to go to work today”, when in reality, he hasn’t worked in forty years – do not try to explain this to him or try to make him understand that “he has been retired and moved to Florida many years ago”. His reality is very real TO HIM. Instead, tell him, “OK, tell me about what type of work you do”? If he is insistent that he has to leave, you can say, “The office isn’t expecting you so early and Sylvia is bringing back the car so let’s do ___________ while we wait”. You can fill in the blank with, eat breakfast, have a snack, watch a favorite program etc.
The goal is to distract the individual long enough for them to move on to something else that does not involve them trying to leave the house, which could be dangerous. When doing this with a calm manner and without arguing, one can provide reassurance and redirection and encourage other “fun” or “enjoyable” activities. By maintaining one’s sense of humor, one can avoid becoming upset that their loved one’s beliefs at that moment are not in accordance with our reality. Allow them to believe they are still working and contributing in that manner if that makes them happy at that moment. Keeping your loved one healthy, safe and happy are the ultimate goals, not reorienting them or insisting they believe “our reality”.
When this thought process is maintained, it makes caregiving much easier for the caregivers themselves and less stressful. These basic principles of behavior management can be incorporated when dealing with other types of behaviors exhibited by a loved one, such as the one’s listed above.
It is also important to remember you are not alone. There are many support groups in your local area that are free of charge and can provide respite, socialization and necessary support when one is caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
There are also services such as Coaching for Caregivers that are offered by us here at the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center. These one hour coaching sessions can provide detailed strategies tailored to address the specific behavioral challenges being faced by an individual caregiver. Feel free to contact us at 561-588-4545 to learn more about this service if you feel it may be of benefit to you.