The most important thing to do for your loved one is to get educated about the disease.
You and your loved one should embark on a knowledge and skill-based journey to fully know and understand Alzheimer’s disease. Reading, attending workshops and being very pro-active about care are ways of to learn more about the disease and to also make everyone more comfortable with the specific action plan your loved one has elected. (Learn more at alzbr.org)
Support services are vital in the management of care, both for the individual who has been diagnosed and for his or her caregiver. Both parties should investigate support groups, explore programs for quality of life and develop a network of family members and friends to avoid loneliness and isolation.
The affected person and/or family members may feel that counseling would be effective, especially in the beginning, to share fears and emotions with each other. There are a number of neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, family counselors and social workers who could help with such sessions. The primary care doctor (or Alzheimer’s Services) can recommend these health care professionals.
One of the most difficult things to do as a caregiver is to remember that you are responding to a disease, not the person who once was. Learn the "language of dementia" by knowing the best way to care for your loved one is to communicate in a way that is validating to them. Communication is challenging because they do not understand our words and the person, in turn, cannot clearly communicate his or her needs. They may make up words and rename objects. They say things repetitively and oftentimes use gestures to get their needs addressed.
Individuals with the disease do not need to be grounded in reality. It is not necessary to constantly remind them of the day or date or month or year. The caregiving task can be a little less problematic by stepping into the reality of the affected individual. For example, if he asks if his mother is coming to see him, and his mother is deceased, talk about his mom rather than reminding him of the past loss and making him more anxious.
Your loved one does not have the ability to reason or rationalize so asking questions such as "Why are you acting that way?" or "why did you do that?" has no meaning and can be potential triggers for behavioral reactions.
There is no such thing as a perfect caregiver. Throughout the journey of the disease you will experience a full range of human emotions, including being frustrated, feeling guilty and being impatient. Forgiving yourself as well as your loved one is essential as you walk the journey together. Don't be afraid to ask for help and accept it.