My husband has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. What are some things I should know or do as his caregiver now?
The first thing to do is to learn as much as possible about the disease. The book, “The 36-Hour Day” by Dr. Peter Rabins and Nancy Pace, is an excellent resource for caregivers and health care professionals. Additionally, visiting Alzheimer’s Services and getting involved in educational and social events will lend you and your husband great support.
As you ease into the rhythm of the journey with your husband, knowing his likes and dislikes and things that may frustrate him, try to set up a routine which will keep his average day predictable and less confusing for him. If changes are made in this routine, try to perform the activities at a time during the day when he is most relaxed and alert. And remember to allow extra time in assisting your husband with daily tasks. Rushing him will only frustrate him or cause him great anxiety.
It is important to keep your husband active for as long as possible to avoid social isolation. Focus on his strengths and what he can do. Allow him to be involved and enlist his opinions. As his memory fades, you may want to avoid large crowds and/or social gatherings as they can be very intimidating. Enjoy activities together in smaller gatherings and at public places at a time during the day when these places are not so busy.
Flexibility becomes your mantra as your husband begins to change and his abilities slowly start to decline. Adapt to these changes and work with him and his specific needs at the time. Communication is challenging as the disease progresses, so you may want to put reminder notes around the house. Labeling rooms like the bathroom or bedroom are helpful in keeping an individual with Alzheimer’s from feeling overwhelmed and confused.
Do a “safety check” around the house, too, to ensure clear pathways and reduce the risk of falls. Additionally, lock away all hazardous items or dangerous materials, such as medications, alcohol, sharp objects and other toxic solutions.
Remember to take time for yourself, too. Take a break from caregiving to ease stress and to re-energize. It is important for the both of you.
Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, email@example.com, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.