Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming freelance writer Evan Kaden to The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver. Please help me make him feel at home!
There’s no denying that caring for a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia can be a challenging—and at times, even overwhelming—task for loved ones who also serve as caregivers. Yet with approximately 5.4 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s, the need for quality caregiving has never been greater—especially since this number is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years.
So how can caregivers ensure that they can provide high-quality care to their loved ones without becoming overwhelmed by their responsibilities? The following tips are hardly exhaustive, but are a good place to start.
- Get Training
Before you even begin the process of providing home care for a loved one, it is essential that you undergo training if you wish to serve as a home care aide. Home care aides have a wide range of responsibilities, ranging from household tasks like cooking and cleaning to medical-related tasks such as administering medications and monitoring vital signs.
If you plan on serving as a home care aide for a loved one, start by gaining a clear understanding of the tasks you would be responsible for, and get training so you can provide qualified medical care. Seek as many additional learning opportunities as you can so you will be better prepared for your responsibilities and know what to expect as your loved one’s symptoms and behaviors change.
- Safety First
When an individual suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia, even commonplace activities can become potentially dangerous. As a caregiver, one of the most important things you can do is to take steps to ensure that their living area is safe. Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia often forget to turn lights on at night, or may forget where a tripping hazard is, turning everyday tasks into safety risks.
Even simple actions, like installing handrails or removing tripping hazards, can make a big impact on safety. Modern security technology can also play a big role in keeping your loved one safe. For example, motion-sensor lights can automatically light the way when your loved one gets up to go to the bathroom at night, while security monitoring and remote care systems can send you an alert if a window or door is opened—all of which will help you prevent accidents and other mishaps.
- Schedule With Flexibility
While a family member who suffers from Alzheimer’s will become increasingly dependent on their caregiver as time goes on, scheduling wisely can help both you and your loved one avoid frustration. Creating a set, unhurried routine can go a long way in helping prevent your loved one from feeling agitated or confused. Allowing loved ones to make simple choices can also help them feel better.
However, it is important that you still allow for some flexibility in your scheduling and care patterns, especially as your loved one’s condition progresses. Your loved one may become resistant to taking a bath every day or could decide he no longer wants to go on short afternoon walks. Being willing to adapt your care schedule for these types of developments will help reduce much of your caregiving stress.
- Take Care of Yourself
With so much emphasis on providing care for your loved one, it can be easy to forget that you need to take care of yourself, too. While taking on the role of caregiver will certainly alter your life and schedule, it is vital that you still try to maintain a sense of normalcy. This includes participating in activities that you enjoy or occasionally going out with friends or other family members.
Perhaps most importantly, find others who can support you during this challenging period. Whether you become part of a support group or simply find a trusted family member or friend with whom you can share your feelings, taking these small steps to care for yourself will prevent you from getting burned out or feeling resentful toward your loved one.
Caring for a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia can be quite a challenge—but it’s not impossible. By adhering to these tips and other best practices for caregivers, you’ll be better equipped to handle the day-to-day challenges of caregiving and gain a greater appreciation of the service you provide.
Evan is a rare-breed of freelance writers who, believe it or not, doesn’t drink coffee! With a passion for helping others, he’s grateful for the opportunities he’s had to share his thoughts and stories with people through this crazy place called the internet.