Your role as caregiver to a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease can be very involved.
You help maintain the quality of life for your spouse, parent, family member, or friend with Alzheimer's disease.
You have become educated about symptoms, treatments and the progression of the disease.
You probably keep track of appointments with the doctor, medication schedules, and exercise.
You offer the love and support necessary to meet the challenges of Alzheimer's disease.
You are a caregiver. While many patients retain their independence for a period of time after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, some may need more help with performing daily activities. For others, the diagnosis may come after weeks or months of you coping with symptoms that did not have a name. Regardless of how long you've been dealing with Alzheimer's disease or to what degree, in some way Alzheimer's has affected your life and responsibilities -- physically, emotionally, or economically.
Unfortunately, getting an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis is not simple. Your doctor can’t check for the disease by doing a quick blood test. That’s because signs of Alzheimer’s disease don't appear in your blood. Instead, Alzheimer’s disease is the result of a problem inside your brain.
The only way to be 100% certain a person suffers from Alzheimer’s disease is to examine samples of brain tissue. This can only be done during an autopsy, after a person has died.
The role you have taken on is not an easy one. However, the following tips offer some guidance on how to maintain and improve your caregiving relationship:
Take time for yourself. Make sure you have time to relax. If necessary, enlist the help of other family members or even hire someone to help out.
Learn as much as you can about your loved one's disease so you will know how you can help. You'll also understand what changes to expect in your loved one's behavior or symptoms.
Help your loved one participate in as many activities in the home and outside the home as possible. Maintain the intricate balance between helping your loved one accomplish a task and actually doing the task for him or her. Allow the patient the time needed to complete daily activities on his or her own, such as dressing.
Consult your loved one about his or her family affairs. Although it's not easy to discuss these topics, you should be informed of your loved one's wishes regarding a living will, durable power of attorney, and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order.
Set realistic goals for yourself and your loved one. Do not attempt to do everything. By setting attainable goals, you are setting everyone up for success, rather than disappointment.
Do not put your life on hold. Continue to meet with friends, participate in hobbies or groups, and maintain a schedule as normally as possible. You will feel more energized and are less likely to feel resentful in the long run.
Have someone you can talk to. You are there for your loved one -- to listen and to offer support -- but you also need a support person. Talk openly and honestly with a friend or family member. If this is not possible, join a support group. Understanding that you are not alone and that someone else is in a similar situation helps you to feel nurtured.
The most effective caregiver is well informed, prepared, and asks for help and support from all resources that are available.