Nothing prepares you to be a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s or other types of memory loss. You’re doing your best, but it’s still stressful and confusing and sometimes feels like you just can’t do anything right!
It can help to educate yourself about memory loss so you can learn how to communicate with a person with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, prevent frustration, and improve the quality of your relationship with your loved one.
1. Keep It Simple
Memory loss is progressive, which means that over time it will be harder for your loved one to remember things, think clearly, communicate, and take care of themselves. When communicating, “take it one step at a time,” Tartakovsky says.
“Break activities down into a series of steps. Use simple words and sentences. Keep it short. Speak slowly and give them time to understand what you said. Wait for a response.”
2. Assist Them in Being as Independent as Possible
If you find yourself jumping in and doing things for your loved one that they’re still able to do, you’re not alone. You’re a caregiver. But it’s actually helpful to allow your loved one to do as much for themselves as possible.
”If they can do something but it’s taking a while, like buttoning their shirt, have them start the top and you can start at the bottom,” Tartakovsky suggests. “Keep their independence going and their ability to continue their activities of daily living. It’s a whole sense of purpose. Everyone needs a sense of purpose. If you take away their independence, you’re taking that away from them. Keep them as independent as possible until they absolutely can’t complete the task on their own or with assistance.”
3. Remember That Behavior Has a Purpose
Wandering, agitation, repetitive speech or actions, paranoia, and sleeplessness may pose many challenges for family caregivers. However, it’s important to remember that these behaviors have a purpose.
Your loved one might not be able to tell you what they want or need, so they might do something instead.
“People wander for various reasons,” Tartakovsky says. “They could be cold or hot in the room, so they wander for a change of temperature. Sometimes they have to go to the bathroom but they forget where it is. Sometimes they’re not engaged, so they might be bored.”
Consider what needs your loved one might be trying to meet with their behavior and try to accommodate them.
4. Reach Out to a Local Support Group
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or memory loss can be isolating. But you’re not alone.
“There are people going through similar experiences,” Tartakovsky says. “Join a support group. Reach out to a professional. Be able to talk about your frustrations and walk through them. It’s beneficial to have peers going through similar things. Sometimes that idea you heard from a support group might work out really well for your loved one and isn't as stressful as what you were doing prior.”
5. Plan for the Future
As memory loss progresses, your loved one will have a harder time functioning independently.
“When the area they’re living in, whether that’s home or an assisted living community, gets too much for them — like they’re getting lost, they’re leaving the water running, their anxiety spikes up or depression kicks in, you see a loss of ability to continue doing ADLs successfully — that’s when you want to start thinking about moving your loved one to a specialized memory care community,” Tartakovsky says.
6. Don’t Feel Guilty
One of the biggest sources of guilt for family caregivers is when a parent’s memory loss progresses to the point that their needs can’t safely be met at home anymore. But there is no shame in choosing the best possible care situation for you and your loved one.
“If you’re a one-man band, that is frustrating,” Tartakovsky says. “You’re putting so much stress on yourself. Moving someone into memory care gives you a whole team taking care of your loved one. You can step back and enjoy the little things in life you weren’t able to do before.”
If you’d like to learn more about The Reflections Memory Care Program, request more information from The Ivy at Watertown today.