By Ro Hogan – Head of Clinical Services
In my role at Southern Cross Care, I often see how taking care of someone you love who has Alzheimer’s disease can at times be a difficult and stressful job for carers, however, it can also bring joy into your life and be extremely rewarding if you remember a few simple things.
As the disease progresses, it becomes easier to forget that your loved one is still present. Many caregivers are frustrated by their loved one’s inability to communicate their thoughts and their inability to remember faces and names. The disease eventually takes away independence so that caregivers become the feet, hands and mind of people struggling with dementia and although it may not be obvious, your loved one is still there, behind the disease.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I would like to share 10 things to remember when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related disease:
- Love yourself. It may seem odd that I put this first but it is really important that carers look after themselves. Caring and loving someone with Alzheimer’s can be tough and you need to top up your own well of wellbeing. Don’t ever forget you’re doing an awesome job.
- Remember that your loved one can remember emotions even after they forget the actual event that caused those emotions. Your words and actions matter! So telling your husband, wife, mother, father, uncle, aunt, friend that you love them will be heard and felt.
- Learn to love and develop predictable routines and schedules. As the disease progresses it is more important than ever to have set routines and schedules. This can help to eliminate confusion and frustration for your loved one.
- Do not argue with your loved one. Arguing with your loved one about a forgotten memory will only upset them and further frustrate you. Be willing to let most things go.
- Be realistic in your expectations for yourself and your loved one. Set realistic goals and learn to expect the unexpected. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic expectations as your loved one struggles with Alzheimer’s.
- Don’t underestimate the power of good nutrition. Studies have linked Alzheimer’s to lifestyle choices, including poor nutrition. Limiting refined sugars and increasing vegetables can help manage behavioral issues.
- Have fun, whenever you can! You and your loved one can still have fun it’s probably going to just look a bit different. Maybe fun is playing some favorite music, looking at the family photo album, going for a walk, giving a hand massage or looking closely into a flower.
- Plan daily time for physical exercise. It’s important to focus on the health of your mind, but also your body during this time. Physical exercise can help, especially if you plan a time for it each day.
- Rely on family members and other loved ones when needed. After everything you have done to support your loved one with Alzheimer’s, remember that you also need support for yourself as well. Turn to family members and other loved ones when you need them.
- Remember that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is not a death sentence. Many people with the disease live more than 20 years following a diagnosis. Take advantage of the time you have left with your loved one.
Ways you can celebrate love on Valentine’s Day
- Buy a heart shaped chocolate, sit in a quiet pleasant spot and eat it thinking about the person you love. Even better buy two heart shaped chocolates and sit together holding hands.
- Play some romantic music and look at wedding photos.
- Go for a walk and enjoy the gardens.
- Wear a bright and uplifting colour like pink – you might be surprised by the number of smiles you get.