Alzheimer's disease can broadly be categorized in seven stages. I have put together some tips to help you become a more effective caregiver in the early stages (Stage 3 and 4) of Alzheimer's.
First Big Rule! Caregivers Must Look After Themselves
You must look after yourself. Find out all you can about Alzheimer's. Educate family and friends so that they can help you. Get support through your local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, who run support groups for caregivers.
How to Promote Memory Skills in Early to Mild Stages of Alzheimer's
At first, people with Alzheimer's will know they are losing their memory for recent events, so you can help them by;
- Keeping routines the same - as much as possible.
- Make lists to remind them. Use a chalk board with day, month and year on it. Use a diary of events to refer to.
- Mark cupboards with the main objects they need from them.
- Use pill boxes marked with the day and time for taking their medication.
- Get duplicates of house and car keys. Have a key cupboard or board.
How to Provide Activities in Early to Mild Stages of Alzheimer's
Continue with social events as much as possible but be flexible. Do activities each day that keep up skills the person already has and enjoys. Do regular exercise. Most people with Alzheimer's still enjoy goal-directed activities such as quizzes, crafts and hobbies. Reminiscence activities are good as they access well rehearsed memories. Reading should still be possible. As the disease progresses one-to-one activities become more important and reminiscence activities more stressful because of failing memory.
How to Maximize Language Skills in Early to Mild Alzheimer's
Conversation becomes more difficult as the disease takes its toll, so:
- Set the mood as your manner can help reduce stress and promote calm. Talk in a gentle way.
- Get the person's attention and look directly at them when you speak.
- Give them time to answer, try not to finish their sentences, only suggest words if they begin to become anxious or frustrated.
- Never be condescending. Do not speak to them as if they are children. Speak slower if need be. Shorter more simple sentences are most effective.
- Be positive, inclusive, optimistic, encouraging and reassuring.
How to Help People with Early to Mild Alzheimer's Do Complex Tasks
Tasks carried out frequently and repeatedly prior to the onset of Alzheimer's are often the skills most easily retained. The caregiver skill is to encourage them to do as much as they can for themselves without causing too much anxiety and frustration. It will take longer, it will try your patience at times, but it is worth it to maintain their dignity and independence. Try only to intervene during a task when he/she asks for help. So:
- Adjust the task so that they can help you. Do tasks together that they find too difficult to do by themselves.
- Help by, for example, getting out food ingredients, clothing, setting out the things they may need for the bathroom and shower without taking away the option of choice.
- Buy electrical items that will automatically switch off after a short time.
- Avoid rigid schedules.
- Praise them for jobs completed - we all need encouragement.
Medications in Mild to Early Stages of Alzheimer's