Alzheimer’s Disease: Your Role as a Caregiver
Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease is a measure of action. You keep your loved one safe and comfortable, keep track of his or her medication and prescription, and give them your love and support. But your health is important, too. It is equally important to keep up with your work, family, and community life.
In your role as a caregiver, do your best to be informed and prepared, and ask for help and support when you need it.
Know What to Expect
It is helpful to remember how the disease affects people who have it. If you know what changes you can expect, they can help you understand how your role may differ over time.
- Alzheimer’s disease is different from everyone else’s. A person’s attitude can change dramatically. There may be times when your loved one seems normal and can handle his or her normal activities. At times, they may even become heavily dependent. The way the drugs affect them can also vary. Changes can be confusing and make your loved one seem desperate or unfaithful. But it is a natural part of the disease.
- The symptoms of your loved one will get worse as the years go by. Although drugs can slow down this progress, they cannot stop it.
- Depression is part of Alzheimer’s as well. It can make symptoms worse and change the way your loved one treats you every day. It is important to know the symptoms they may be suffering from and to inform their doctor immediately.
Take care of yourself
Use these tips to improve your communication with your loved one and your health as a caregiver:
- Give yourself time. Ask other family members, friends, or someone you rented to come in, even for just a few hours, while you are busy, running, or just relaxing. You can also look for daycare programs in your area.
- Learn as much as you can about your loved one’s illness so you know how to help. You will also understand what changes you can expect in their behavior or traits.
- Do not do everything for them. People with Alzheimer’s can’t do everything they used to do, but they can do certain things with a little help. Let your loved one handle certain tasks, such as dressing or wrapping cloths. Give them time to finish it themselves, but intervene when they need help. Help them set goals to complete the tasks, and celebrate when they achieve them.
- Talk to your loved ones about their family affairs. You should know your loved one’s wishes regarding a living will, a strong attorney’s power, and a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order. Try to talk to them about these things as early as possible in their illness.
- Don’t put your life in jeopardy. Associate with friends, continue your leisure activities and stick to a routine that is as natural as possible. You will be stronger and less likely to feel angry over time.
- Have someone to talk to. You are there to listen to your loved ones and provide support. But you need someone to come out to, too. Talk openly and honestly with a friend or family member. Join a support group to share with other Alzheimer’s sufferers. It helps to know that you are not alone and that other people feel the way you do.
If a Loved One Has Dizziness
Where to Start
As a decision-maker, you will need to have an app in place. Here is a list of things to consider.
1. Assemble the group.
This is a lot of responsibility that one person has to take on. So choose the closest helpers you can count on. Think of their strengths and weaknesses (physically and emotionally), relationship flexibility, and other competing responsibilities. Knowing who is in your loved one’s inner circle helps with the separation of employees.
2. Track the day in your loved one’s life.
Look at what they can and cannot do for themselves. Physicians, rehab specialists, and senior social workers can help assess their needs. Decide how well they are doing the following:
- Make food and eat
- Wash, groom, and use the toilet
- Wear them
- Go go
- Pay bills and manage money
- Drive or navigate public transport
- Take their medication
- Do your homework
3. Keep a record of facts and figures.
As their memory dwindles, information that once was “top-notch” can be permanently lost. Write down those things before they forget. Practical knowledge is key, but so are emotional factors.
4. Pull together a complete medical history.
Do you know all the health conditions of your loved one? All their health conditions? What medications do they take? Names of all their doctors (primary care and specialist)? If they have allergies? Past illnesses, surgery, treatment, and test results?
If not, it’s time to create a larger file. You will need the consent of your loved ones to access their health records, which are protected by HIPAA privacy laws. You will also want to sign a health care representative to make legal decisions for them when they can no longer.
Now that everything is computer-generated, you will want to create a file on your computer with all this information. It is a good idea to make a backup copy of the file to a flash or thumb drive that you can carry in case you have to go to the emergency room.
5. Track their finances.
The list of numbers you will need to hunt includes:
- Account numbers
- Bank balances
- Insurance policies and payments
- Total goods
- Outstanding debts
- Continuous costs
You will need to plan maintenance costs, pay off debts, arrange interest claims, make investment decisions, and adjust tax returns. These can be heartwarming stories, as a person with Alzheimer’s should give control and fully trust your judgment. And money can be a huge difference in families.
Your loved one can sign up for a strong attorney, giving you the right to choose his or her finances. You can also hire a trusted external company: a CPA, a family banker, a real estate agent, or a financial planner. Do not forget to install this on the computer file and the thumb drive. The data should include who has the power of attorney, as well as any prior guidance or will.
6. Put the legal system in place.
Get the latest asset version and asset plan. Take immediate action if they do not have or need updates. They may also be seeking a living will, a legal document that sets out their wishes for lifelong care. It is important to have clear instructions and decide who will put their affairs in order.
7. Fill out the safe deposit box.
Here’s what to look for:
- Birth certificate
- Empty checks
- Car title
- Deeds (housing, private property, burial ground)
- Driver’s license
- Family trees or genealogical records
- Health insurance cards
- Insurance policies and cards
- Legal documents
- List of bank accounts
- Marriage certificate
- Medical records
- Medicare Card
- Serial numbers for military service
- Giving Card
- List of personal property
- Social Security Card
- Stock certificates
Putting all these ducks in order is a big responsibility, so deal with the piece in time. And while caring for your loved one, remember to take care of yourself.
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