Being the caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s at home is not easy, on many levels, physically and emotionally. This counts for both the person living with Alzheimer’s and the caregiver.

If it’s your parent you’re caring for, your relationship will definitely come under strain, so the first thing you need to do is to learn as much as you can about the disease, and then to find the right kind of support.

Taking your parent into your home is a big step, but it’s a step in the right direction in terms of establishing care in a comfort zone that’ll make adjustment easier for them, especially with family around him or her.

Your parent will experience the sadness of losing his or her dependence, and it’s up to you to do all you can to help maintain as much of it as possible, for as long as possible.

Writing out a list of tasks your parent can still do alone, and including instructions that are easy to follow, will make your parent feel a sense of achievement, which is what can help keep a healthy balance.

Even activities like asking a parent to help you with daily tasks like folding laundry, sweeping or fixing small things around the house will give his self-esteem a boost.

Tips for making life easier when caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease:

Activities:

Exercise is a great mood stabiliser, and if your parent is able to take a walk with you regularly, you’ll find that sleep will also be easier for him or her.

Even if it’s difficult for him to move about, there are enough easy-to-use exercise machines available on the market today that’ll do the same.

Music soothes the soul and will also bring back good memories for your parent, so play his favourite, and if he can, get him up and dancing with you to his favourite tunes!

Memory muscles can be stimulated by playing simple, favourite board games, word games and puzzles. 

It’ll be easy to become despondent if your parent doesn’t respond to activities that normally would appeal, but you need to keep trying. It could just be a bad day to try it.

Grooming:

You’re going to have to get used to the idea of helping your parent with his or her grooming, or they’ll forget to do it.  Routine is essential for anyone living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Your parent may need help brushing teeth or shaving, the latter of which would be better if an electric razor is used. It’s just safer.  Help your mom to put on her makeup if she’s always taken pride in her appearance.

These are the things that can help to improve self-esteem and confidence despite the disease.

Bathing:

Try to have a handheld showerhead in the bath for you parent to use, as well as making sure there’s a rubber mat in the bath to avoid chances of slipping.

Grab bars are essential in a shower, as is a shower stool, especially if your parent is frail.  If showering becomes too difficult to manage for both of you, sponge baths will do just as well to maintain cleanliness.

Getting dressed:

Elastic waistbands will make getting dressed a lot easier on your parent, as will slip on shoes, since tying shoe laces and buckles will be too frustrating to deal with. 

Instead of fighting a losing battle if he wants to wear the same clothes over and over again, get a few sets of them. Familiarity with the clothes he or she wears is at the bottom of this type of behaviour.

Meals:

Peace and calmness should reign during mealtimes.  Try to keep meals uncomplicated and simple, anything too ‘busy’ on the plate or table is going to add to your parent’s general state of confusion.

Your parent with Alzheimer’s disease is going to need time to eat, just as any child would, so patience is the order of the day at mealtimes.

You may need to move to softer foods if swallowing becomes difficult, or to finger foods once eating on his own becomes harder. This will all allow your parent to have some measure of independence, no matter how little it may be.

Professional caregivers:

Lastly, bring in a caregiver to give you a break. If you don’t, you’ll burn out very quickly.  Many caregivers start battling with frustration on a daily basis, leading to irritation, depression and anxiety.

Please don’t think you’re superman or superwoman, you’re not!

Give yourself time out to recuperate and rest by calling CareChamp for the best Alzheimer’s caregivers in South Africa. It’s a decision that’ll impact the quality of your life under trying circumstances, and you won’t regret it.