The Stages of Alzheimer’s: Tips for Caregivers

Young man helping elderly woman button her sweater: stages of Alzheimer’s caregiver tips

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be devastating, both for the patient and for their caregiver. In honor of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, Tower Lodge Care Center would like to offer these Alzheimer’s caregiver tips for coping with all stages of the disease.

Tower Lodge Care Center, a family-owned and-operated residence in Wall Township, New Jersey, offers a special Alzheimer’s/Memory-Impaired Care unit, with care regimens created to enhance life at all stages of Alzheimer’s, and staff chosen for their ability to provide excellent and compassionate care.

Caregiving During the Diagnosis

  1. Allow yourselves time to adjust to the reality of the diagnosis. Many people feel stigmatized by an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but find that sharing the news actually  opens up avenues of support they did not expect.
  2. Emphasize — to yourself and to the person who has been diagnosed — that they will always play an important role in the lives of their loved ones.

Caregiving During Early-Stage Alzheimer’s

  1. Most people are still able to live independent lives in the early stage of Alzheimer’s. Use this time with your loved one to make important decisions about and plans for the future.
  2. Start treatment: early intervention can lessen the severity of symptoms.
  3. Understand that both you and your loved one will go through some form of grieving process. By accepting and talking about your emotions, both of you will be able to handle your feelings more easily.
  4. Don’t forget about yourself: join a formal or informal support group to help you stay healthy, both physically and emotionally. Be sure to visit the Alzheimer’s Organization online. It offers a wealth of information and support for people coping with this diagnosis.Caregiving During Early-Stage Alzheimer’s

Caregiving During Middle-Stage Alzheimer’s

  1. The middle stage of Alzheimer’s is typically the longest, often lasting years. Try to remain patient, flexible, and even hopeful. Even though the disease is progressing, there will still be good days.
  2. Taking care of a person with Alzheimer’s can be exhausting. As your responsibilities as a caregiver grow, you may find that your own family’s needs, and even your personal needs, are increasingly overlooked. It is important to consider respite care when required so that your life retains balance and joy.
  3. Safety concerns often come to the fore during the middle stage of Alzheimer’s. Usually the patient will have to stop driving. Even communication and basic grooming may become difficult for them. As much as possible, try to share simple activities, like taking a walk. These enhance the person’s quality of life, and can reduce the anxiety that often grows during middle-stage Alzheimer’s.
  4. At some point, it will become unsafe for your loved one to live alone. You will have to consider other living arrangements. If this involves moving into a care facility, be sure to find one that offers special services for residents with Alzheimer’s.

Caregiving During Late-Stage Alzheimer’s

  1. The late stage of Alzheimer’s, which can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, involves serious deterioration in your loved one’s health. They will likely need full-time help, and may have trouble walking, and even swallowing.
  2. Enhance their life and preserve their dignity in whatever ways possible. While your loved one may no longer be able to communicate, research shows that they may still enjoy activities such as looking through old photo albums, getting a massage, or even having their hair gently brushed.
  3. It is likely that your loved one will not be able to stay at home, even with assistance. Be sure that any facility you consider for them offers staff who are well trained in handling the many needs of a person who may be nonverbal and bedridden.
  4. Late-stage Alzheimer’s brings some of the most difficult decisions about care. It is important for the caregiver to make peace with their decisions, and to have proper support, since this is typically an extremely stressful time.

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