Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, can be physically and emotionally draining for both the person affected and the primary caregiver. Before considering care options, it is always important to consult a neurologist to determine whether your loved one has a form of dementia. Once you have the diagnosis, here is some information to help you create a comprehensive care plan.
Although it’s not an easy conversation to have, it’s important to sit down with aging parents who are in the early stages of dementia and create a plan to address long-term care needs. If you are planning to hire an in-home caregiver, you will want to make sure he or she has experience working with older adults who have dementia. At Home Care Assistance, our caregivers are highly-qualified and trained in Alzheimer’s and dementia care through our proprietary Home Care Assistance University (HCAU). Another important consideration is the level of care your loved one needs; depending on the stage of dementia, a person may need assistance 24/7. Having multiple caregivers will ensure that someone is always awake to ensure the safety of your loved one at any hour of the day or night and address common issues such as wandering and sundowning.
Sundowning is characterized by restlessness, irritability, agitation and confusion that occur in the late afternoon or early evening and can last through the night. When a person with Alzheimer’s is agitated or confused, it is best to calmly listen to his or her concerns and perhaps distract that person from potentially upsetting events or situations. An experienced and compassionate caregiver can calmly address such issues.
If you are caring for your loved one yourself, consider these tips to address sundowning:
- Reduce: Turn down the volume of the TV, reduce the number of people in the room or try going outside. Minimizing clutter in the environment will help to alleviate stress. It is also important to minimize confusion by closing the blinds at dusk and turning on lights to minimize shadows.
- Distract: Offer the person his or her favorite food or turn on a favorite TV program to focus attention elsewhere.
- Relax: Sundowning may be caused by fatigue, so it is important to promote relaxation. Listening to soothing music, meditating or talking to family members are all good ways to lower blood pressure, calm nerves and re-energize.
It is equally important for the caregiver and the person suffering from Alzheimer’s to get quality rest. With proper rest and relaxation both parties will experience optimal well-being and avoid burnout. One way in which you can relieve stress and sleep better is through daily exercise. Even a brisk walk for 30 minutes provides many health benefits.
If you are in need of more information on the topic of Alzheimer’s and dementia care, Home Care Assistance’s book, Mind Over Gray Matter: A New Approach to Dementia Care, is a great resource. The book offers practical guidance on caring for someone with dementia, including joining a support group to reduce the risk of burnout. It can be devastating to see a loved one’s health deteriorate, but having a safe haven where you can discuss solutions to common problems with people who understand can be very comforting.
If you live in the U.S. and are looking for a local support group, visit http://www.alz.org/apps/we_can_help/support_groups.asp.
If you live in Canada and are looking for a local support group, visit http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/provincial-office-directory.
If you live in Australia and are looking for local resources, visit https://vic.fightdementia.org.au/vic/support-and-services/services-and-programs-we-provide/support-groups.