A Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimer’s

By National Institute on Aging

Visiting the Doctor

It is important that the person with Alzheimer’s diease receive regular medical care. Advance planning can help the trip to the doctor’s office go more smoothly. 

  • Try to schedule the appointment for the person’s best time of day. Also, ask the office staff what time of day the office is least crowded.
  • Let the office staff know in advance that this person is confused. If there is something they might be able to do to make the visit go more smoothly, ask.
  • Don’t tell the person about the appointment until the day of the visit or even shortly before it is time to go. Be positive and matter-of-fact.
  • Bring along something for the person to eat and drink and any activity that he or she may enjoy.
  • Have a friend or another family member go with you on the trip, so that one of you can be with the person while the other speaks with the doctor.

Coping with the Holidays

Holidays are bittersweet for many AD caregivers. The happy memories of the past contrast with the difficulties of the present, and extra demands on time and energy can seem overwhelming. Finding a balance between rest and activity can help. 

  • Keep or adapt family traditions that are important to you. Include the person with AD as much as possible.
  • Recognize that things will be different, and have realistic expectations about what you can do.
  • Encourage friends and family to visit. Limit the number of visitors at one time, and try to schedule visits during the time of day when the person is at his or her best.
  • Avoid crowds, changes in routine, and strange surroundings that may cause confusion or agitation.
  • Do your best to enjoy yourself. Try to find time for the holiday things you like to do, even if it means asking a friend or family member to spend time with the person while you are out.
  • At larger gatherings such as weddings or family reunions, try to have a space available where the person can rest, be by themselves, or spend some time with a smaller number of people, if needed.

Visiting a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease

Visitors are important to people with AD. They may not always remember who the visitors are, but just the human connection has value. Here are some ideas to share with someone who is planning to visit a person with AD. 

  • Plan the visit at the time of the day when the person is at his or her best. Consider bringing along some kind of activity, such as something familiar to read or photo albums to look at, but be prepared to skip it if necessary.
  • Be calm and quiet. Avoid using a loud tone of voice or talking to the person as if he or she were a child. Respect the person’s personal space and don’t get too close.
  • Try to establish eye contact and call the person by name to get his or her attention. Remind the person who you are if he or she doesn’t seem to recognize you.
  • If the person is confused, don’t argue. Respond to the feelings you hear being communicated, and distract the person to a different topic if necessary.
  • If the person doesn’t recognize you, is unkind, or responds angrily, remember not to take it personally. He or she is reacting out of confusion.

Choosing a Nursing Home

For many caregivers, there comes a point when they are no longer able to take care of their loved one at home. Choosing a residential care facility — a nursing home or an assisted living facility — is a big decision, and it can be hard to know where to start. 

  • It’s helpful to gather information about services and options before the need actually arises. This gives you time to explore fully all the possibilities before making a decision.
  • Determine what facilities are in your area. Doctors, friends and relatives, hospital social workers, and religious organizations may be able to help you identify specific facilities.
  • Make a list of questions you would like to ask the staff. Think about what is important to you, such as activity programs, transportation, or special units for people with AD.
  • Contact the places that interest you and make an appointment to visit. Talk to the administration, nursing staff, and residents.
  • Observe the way the facility runs and how residents are treated. You may want to drop by again unannounced to see if your impressions are the same.
  • Find out what kinds of programs and services are offered for people with AD and their families. Ask about staff training in dementia care, and check to see what the policy is about family participation in planning patient care.
  • Check on room availability, cost and method of payment, and participation in Medicare or Medicaid. You may want to place your name on a waiting list even if you are not ready to make an immediate decision about long-term care.
  • Once you have made a decision, be sure you understand the terms of the contract and financial agreement. You may want to have a lawyer review the documents with you before signing.
  • Moving is a big change for both the person with AD and the caregiver. A social worker may be able to help you plan for and adjust to the move. It is important to have support during this difficult transition.

 

APA Reference
on Aging, N. (2006). A Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimer’s. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/a-caregivers-guide-to-alzheimers/000197
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.