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Published on: September 4, 2018
by Laura Smith for Zululand Observer:
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is increasing worldwide, and longer life expectancy is contributing to the rapid increase in the numbers and prevalence of chronic diseases such as dementia.
During September we celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month, and 21 September is World Alzheimer’s Day.
As dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are escalating, it has become important for everyone to gain knowledge on the topic and to spread awareness.
Patients in the early stages
• Need to feel valued
• May be concerned about how the disease will affect themselves and their families
• Need companionship
• Will strive to hold on to and maintain an active and independent life
Patients in the later stages
• Need a caregiver who shows them love and affection and affords them a routine as well as familiar surroundings
• Should to be treated with dignity and respect. Although certain abilities will be lost, the person’s emotions and feelings will remain, as well as their need for companionship and belonging.
While it can be challenging to keep the person with AD active during the day, here are some chores and activities that are suitable to keep them entertained and involved in the household
• Make the bed, fold laundry, peel vegetables
• Listen to music – this is incredibly soothing for patients with AD and dementia
• Looking at photographs together
• Light exercise such as walking around the garden, dancing to familiar music
It is important to keep in mind the things that the person liked to do in the past, and where possible, to provide activities and interactions that bring them a sense of joy and celebration.
The do’s and don’ts of caring for a person with dementia
• Do acknowledge them
• Do count to ten and walk away
• Do remember that you can control your actions and responses, they cannot.
• Do appear friendly (non-verbal communication)
• Do give reasons for a task
• Do respond to emotions
• Do encourage control, independence and decision making
• Do speak calmly at eye level. Make eye contact.
• Do use humour, when appropriate
• Do have patience
• Do touch/hug if appropriate
• Do develop a ‘behaviour profile’
• Do break down tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks, and ensure that it is within the patient’s capabilities
• Do ensure that the task is at the person’s level
• Do treat the patient as an individual, with adult rights
• Do maintain routine as much as possible
• Do communicate with family and visitors
• Do encourage the family to create a memory photo album
• Do be the person’s advocate.
• Don’t be bossy, raise your voice, shout or argue
• Don’t ask open-ended questions – give a choice. For example, ‘would you like beef or chicken for lunch?’, rather than ‘What would you like for lunch?’
• Don’t insist on trying to ‘rehabilitate’ the patient
• Don’t discuss them while they are in the room, or within hearing
• Don’t patronise or talk down to them
• Don’t reprimand or criticise
• Don’t restrain or isolate them, and never tie them down or lock them in a room.
Take care of the primary caregiver, as they often:
• Feel alone and isolated from friends
• Need assistance, but are reluctant to ask for it
• Unable to do errands or complete household tasks
• Experience stress that sometimes affects their health
• Need a break from caregiving
• Need someone who is willing to listen to them.
This disease affects the entire family
A person with AD needs more help as the disease progresses.
Much of the help comes from family members, and they often have to take on new responsibilities and have to adapt to greater demands upon their time.
They also have to alter the patterns of their own lives in order to be able to provide the extra time and help their loved one requires.
These changes may be very stressful, both physically and emotionally.
Caregivers tend to set their own needs aside while caring for the person with AD and fatigue is one of the major problems for the caregiver.
They reach the end of the rope in terms of their patience and this is related to fatigue, because if you are constantly tired it is very difficult to stay patient with someone who is repeatedly asking the same questions and constantly demands your attention.
Signs of ‘carer stress’
• Lack of sleep
• Lack of concentration
• Increased health problems
• Denial that the person has the disease
• Anger at the patient, and others
• Emotional sensitivity
• Social withdrawal
Friends of carers can offer help by:
• Affording the carer time to get away from the patient and the environment for a while.
• Being a friend to whom they can talk and who would be willing to listen, as they often become isolated and lonely.
• Staying connected with them, and including them.
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