When you become a caregiver to someone in the Early-to-Mild stage of Alzheimer’s disease, the first thing you might notice is a struggle between wanting to do things for the person who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and wondering if you should. You might wonder, “Is is better to allow persons to be independent and do things for themselves (although sometimes in a different way) or to rescue them and do things for them?”
In the Early-to-Mild stage of Alzheimer’s disease, a caregiver will find it most productive to refrain from doing things for persons that can do for themselves and to encourage independence as much as possible.
The caregiver’s task is to act as an advocate and resource person. Observe without interfering, unless an activity involves potential physical danger or abuse. Think about the times when it would be best for you to let the person with Alzheimer’s disease take control. when you should share decision-making powers, and when you should take the lead. In addition:
- Learn as much about Alzheimer’s disease as you can, before problems arise. Be proactive.
- Go to your family physician for a thorough medical exam when you suspect something is wrong, and visit a geriatric assessment center or other medical facility that specializes in Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Many things can cause dementia, and sometimes the dementia can be helped, although often it is irreversible.
- Try to understand and talk about the brain functions that remain and those that are lost, based on what the person with dementia is experiencing.
- Share with others in the family who want to know more about the disease any and all information that you have.
- Cal a family forum to discuss life transitions as well as changing stresses in the family. Consider including the person with dementia in this discussion.
- Be ready for your own denial, and denial by your loved one and other family members, that the disease id affecting someone you care deeply about.
- Be open in discussing with others the information that you, your spouse, or a friend has Alzheimer’s disease.
- Talk with a spiritual counselor about your feelings. A counselor can help sort out what is fact and what is feeling.
- Seek counsel with your relatives, friends, and counselors at the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center. If you are your own caregiver, lay out a plan for your long-term comfort and care.
- Identify family, friends, and outside sources who will assist you when you carry the burden of full responsibility for overseeing all issues of daily life.
- Be prepared to take the leadership role in all activities of daily living: It is important that all financial and legal documents be put in place while the person with Alzheimer’s disease can be part of the process.
- Be an active listener and really hear what is important to the person for whom you are caring. He may want to talk about sensitive issues such as long-term care or power of attorney. He may want to tell you things is is aware of that are causing him concern. Remember that the disease will set the pace for what is to come. In many cases, the person for whom you are caring may bot want to prepare for the future. Don’t force this kind of dialogue; simply move forward on these issues at his pace. Sometimes, too, your physician will suggest that certain steps must be taken. Follow them when you can.
Having Alzheimer’s disease or being a caregiver often causes one to ask questions such as: “What is my purpose in life? What am I supposed to do now? How am I to live life in the most productive way possible?”
For the caregiver, it is a matter of keeping in mind the dignity within the person who has the disease and constantly finding ways to honor that dignity. Help the person grow and mature with the capabilities that she still has. Try enough self-discipline to stop before you speak or act and thing “What is going on here? Is the person for whom I am caring really intentionally doing this or that… or saying this or that… to make life difficult, or is it the disease acting out instead?”
For the person with the disease, it is a matter of continuing to do what is possible, as long as possible. Find ways to cope with situations that will help you remember current appointments, people who have called, and other details of daily life.
Throughout life, everyone has to deal with losses. Whether caused by Alzheimer’s disease or not.
The Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center is dedicated solely to meeting the needs of Alzheimer’s caregivers. Reach out to us anytime at 855-476-7600.