Tips and Advice to Help Alzheimer’s Patient And Caregivers Prepare
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder that affects an estimated 5.4 million Americans, the majority of which are 65 years or older.
About Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is much like dementia with memory loss being one of the major symptoms. Other symptoms include changes in personality; loss in interests; difficulties making simple decisions; cognitive struggles; issues with concentration; confusion regarding people, places, and timing; and difficulty completing tasks that require sequential steps. Other extreme symptoms include things such as depression, hallucinations, and paranoia.
These symptoms of Alzheimer’s make it more and more difficult for a patient to live on their own as the disease progresses. Eventually, a person with Alzheimer’s needs 24 hour care to stay safe. Some people choose to move to assisted living facilities where health professionals are available day and night. Other people choose to either move in with a loved one or have them move in to act as a caregiver.
If you or someone you know chooses to act as a live-in caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to recognize that the task is not easy. Watching a healthy, active adult deteriorate and become less and less like themselves is a constant reminder of how brief and fragile life actually is. However, being a caregiver is one of the kindest things a person can do, especially if the Alzheimer’s patient does not want to join an assisted living facility.
Planning for the Future with an Alzheimer’s Patient
There are various stages of Alzheimer’s. Most people continue to be lucid and coherent for months–even years– before things start to deteriorate. During this time, it’s important for a caregiver to sit down with the patient and have a conversation about planning for the future. The goal of this conversation is to gain perspective and identify the patient’s personal choices regarding end-of-life arrangements.
If the patient has children or other close family members that are not the primary caregiver, it’s a good idea to include them in the conversation to prevent confusion or conflict during a time of crisis.
During the conversation, the patient should help answer the following questions:
- How would the patient like their dignity preserved as their Alzheimer’s disease progresses?
- What are the patient’s final wishes regarding burial or cremation options?
- How will the burial or cremation services be paid for?
- What decision do you want your family to make regarding life support? Is a living will in order?
- Who is to act as the executor of the patient’s will?
- Who are the beneficiaries?
Preparing the Home for an Alzheimer’s Patient
To keep the Alzheimer’s patient safe, it may be necessary to make some modifications around the house.
- The Alzheimer’s patient needs their own room where they can escape for privacy and quiet.
- Their room needs close, if not direct, access to a bathroom.
- Hazardous decor such as glass objects should be removed from an Alzheimer’s patient’s room.
- Cover sharp edges in corners in protective foam to prevent injury in case they bump up against them.
- Locks on drawers and cabinets containing hazardous objects such as toxic cleaning supplies or knives can prevent accidents and injuries.
- Safety ramps over stairs make it easier for them to navigate the house while they are able to walk. If they are in a wheelchair or use a walker, these ramps are absolutely necessary.
- Install a grab bar and safety bench in their bathtub or shower to make bathing safer and easier.
- Clearly label faucets “hot” and “cold” to help prevent scalding.
- If the patient tends to wander, a fence around the property may be what you need to prevent this. Research fencing companies in your area and find someone who’s received great reviews from customers.
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease that progresses as a person ages. To continue living at home, an Alzheimer’s patient needs a caregiver to look out for their safety. Before the disease is too progressive, the caregiver should have a conversation with the patient regarding their wishes going forward. To keep the patient safe, certain safety measures should be made around the house.
Article Credit: Kent Eliot
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