Taking Care of Your Parent With Alzheimer’s
Ask anyone throughout the country, and they’ll agree: Alzheimer’s is a disease that many are familiar with, and is almost synonymous with the older generations in our society. Though it’s an extremely challenging disease to deal with personally, it often has significant effects on others, particularly the person’s loved ones.
This is exacerbated when it’s you who is chosen to be the primary caregiver for your parent. Firstly, there’s loads of information you want get your hands on about how to deal with the disease. After that, you’ll want to learn about how best to give care for your parent with Alzheimer’s. Finally, and equally important, is to balance the amount of how much you take care of yourself.
We’ve put together a comprehensive primer about the above topics and many more relating to helping you care for your parent with Alzheimer’s.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is the name of one of several diseases whereby there is progressive decline of one’s mental faculties. According to www.alz.org there are 5.7 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s, and 5.5 million of them are over the age of 65. This translates into one out of ten, or 10% of people over 65 having Alzheimer’s disease.
There is nearly 260 billion dollars spent on Americans with Alzheimer’s or other forms of Dementia every year. There are also more than 15 million people who assist with the care of people with Alzheimer’s. This is besides for the tens of thousands of doctors, nurses, aides and other healthcare providers who do the same as their paid job. We can certainly get a picture of the magnitude of the disease in our country.
Alzheimer’s may often affect a parent’s life span, though many with the disease live for several decades afterwards. Alzheimer’s is found twice as often in African Americans than in Whites, and Hispanics have it 1.5 times the amount as whites.
It can be a daunting task to help care for a parent or any loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease. Besides for the often tremendous amount of financial strain it can put on a spouse or family of one with the disease, it can exert immense physical and emotional pressure as well.
What’s the Difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?
Due to the fact that Alzheimer’s and Dementia are invariably used interchangeably, the two diseases are very often confused with one another. Let’s take a moment to clarify what each one exactly is.
Dementia is a disease that affects communication and the basic carrying out of daily activities. Alzheimer’s is actually a form of Dementia, over 50% of dementia cases in fact. Alzheimer’s affects the sections of one’s brain that influence memory, and basic thought. Dementia may include other diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
How Do I Know My Parent Has Alzheimer’s?
Here are some of the most common indications written about on www.agingcare.com:
- Memory Loss - This is arguably the most common and apparent symptom found in people with the disease. This is especially so regarding information that the sufferer has been told recently. Sometimes it will mean your parent forgetting relatively easy things to remember like a planned event, or birthday of a grandchild. More often, a parent with Alzheimer’s will ask incessantly about the same topic over and over.
- Completing an Easy Task - A classic example of this is a parent (who’s still capable of driving) finding difficulty driving to the correct store for a simple errand. Additionally, they may forget the rules of a game they’ve been playing for decades.
- Not Getting Involved Socially - When your parent begins to cease doing things they once did, it may just be sign of aging. However if it’s an activity where physical strength plays no role, like conversing with friends, this could be a sign of Alzheimer’s. If it’s occasional, it may be a bad mood. If it’s chronic that may be a red flag.
- Mood Swings - Because a parent with Alzheimer’s is experiencing changes unbeknownst to him or her, this may create moodiness in them, and thereby cause them to act very differently than you're used to. You may find them being overly suspicious or fearful for no apparent reason, when just simply being out of their natural habitat.
Identify Which Symptoms Your Parent Has
Due to the fact that different people with Alzheimer’s disease exhibit different symptoms, one should strive to note which symptoms your loved one has. By doing this, it may ease the burden of care already put on them, and can allow you to put more focus on dealing with the symptoms you know their family member has. It is of course very important to keep a watchful eye on your loved one so as to notice if the disease is starting to manifest in additional ways.
The following are examples to illustrate the above idea.
- Many people with Alzheimer’s can carry out most of their daily tasks, while at the same time, they may require help with certain basic activities.
- Many people with Alzheimer’s take medication for the disease, and though they may help with some or all of the symptoms, they may cause adverse side effects in how they deal with the family member home care aide assisting them, including misleading them or acting in a less mature manner than they are used to. Unfortunately, this is quite common when assisting a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
- Remember that symptoms will rarely cease, and sometimes not even maintain at their current state. Very often in fact, they will worsen over time. Once again, with medication they can be inhibited, but not eliminated.
- One very significant point is depression. Many suffering with Alzheimer’s disease become depressed to a degree. This is important to keep in mind as often the depression will augment the already existing symptoms.
Education About Alzheimer’s Is Key
The best plan of action one can take in trying to best care for their loved one with Alzheimer’s, is to constantly educate themselves. Always try to be on the lookout for new information about the disease, and the cutting edge methods on how to deal with it.
The National Institutes of Health firmly pushes for anyone caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s to constantly learn more about the disease. They say, that the more one knows about what the symptoms are at each stage of the disease, the ways how one can alleviate the symptoms, and the methods to help your loved one deal with the disease, is critical. As someone who will be responsible for the care of their loved one with Alzheimer’s, one should understand that being read up on the issues is part of the job.
One great idea for helping to not just educate oneself, but to improve upon already existing care practices with their loved one, is caregiver training. This will help them hone their skills to deal with scenarios that are out of the ordinary for someone with Alzheimer’s, and also to help them better interact with one that has the disease.
How to Slow Down the Development of Alzheimer’s
Once a parent has Alzheimer’s, it’s usually no longer possible to rid the disease from them. Many people falsely believe that once their parent has it, just call it quits and wait for some pharmaceutical company to produce a cure. However, there are actually many things you as a child of a parent with Alzheimer’s can do to help slow down the process, and maybe even reverse it.
Though there are dozens of experimental medicines and therapies being developed on as we speak, none are open to the public. However the good news is that there are things you can do to help slow the development of Alzheimer’s in your parents.
The most basic way in achieving this is simply helping your parent live a healthy and active lifestyle. This includes eating healthy, doing exercise and getting out and about. The worst thing one can do for their parent with Alzheimer’s, is allowing them to simply stay home and sit on the couch and watch TV. This will not only not slow down Alzheimer’s, but may even accelerate it.
- Many doctors suggest specific additions to an overall health eating pattern This includes vitamin E, found in green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, and lots of Omega 3’s, which can be found in fish nuts, Chia seeds and many other foods.
- Exercising is so important that the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation claims that it will cut one’s chances of getting the disease by 50%. It also helps very much in slowing down the development of Alzheimer’s once one actually has it. Remember that doing the exercise with your parent, like going for a walk or taking an aerobics class with them, will motivate them even more to do it.
- Socializing is great for anyone who has Alzheimer’s, and can significantly slow down the process of the disease. Ensuring a parent has good quality sleep and manages any stress they may also have a positive effect on them.
- One additional step that should be taken is certainly some form of mental stimulation. This includes playing memory games, practicing to memorize new facts, and just simple learning new things.
Common Medications for Your Parent’s Symptoms
Like with any disease, Alzheimer’s comes with not only a slew of symptoms, but a vast number of medications to help deal, slow down, or in some cases eliminate them. Once you have done a reasonable job of identifying the primary symptoms your parent exhibits, you should speak to the doctor about prescribing some medication to alleviate them. Remember, that nearly every medication has some kind of side effect, some less harsh, some more. Do some research about each medication before you and your doctor decide what’s best for your parent.
Below, we’ve put together some of the common symptoms for which people with Alzheimer’s take medication, what they’re meant to do and any common side effects that result. Much of the information was gleaned from www.webmd.com among other various sources of research.
- Memory and Thought - Cholinesterase inhibitors these are medicines that help promote better thinking and memory. Examples of these medications are Aricept and Razydene.
- Agitation - Other medications are usually prescribed for people suffering with Alzheimer’s who suffer from unrest. Common medications that are suggested for this are Celexa and Zoloft among others.
- Sleeplessness - For people who specifically suffer from insomnia, a common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, many doctors give Ambien or Sonata.
- Anticonvulsants - These drugs are used to help temper mood swings, aggression and overall confusion of someone with Alzheimer’s. Some drugs that are prescribed for these symptoms are Tegretol and Trileptal,
- Antipsychotics - For those who suffer from severe Alzheimer’s and experience hallucinations and/or paranoia, doctors may sometimes prescribe drugs that can help with the symptoms. Examples of this drug type include Risperdal and Zyprexa.
Innovative Medicine For People With Alzheimer’s
Besides for the classic ways to medicate for Alzheimer’s symptoms, there are also loads of new innovative medicines and treatments being researched and developed as we speak. In fact pharmaceutical companies in America researched over 85 new medicines and treatments in 2017 alone.
It’s worth your while as one who’s ensured with the care of their parent to keep as up to date with these advances of Alzheimer’s medicine. One day it may help rid your parent of their symptoms and the disease altogether.
Though there have been over 200 different experimental drugs researched in the past 20 years, they have seen minimal success. However, one should not be disheartened, as the scientific community continues to get better at what it does and get closer to a cure for Alzheimer’s.
For example now there is an experimental drug called C31, that is meant to heal and correct the brain cells that are deteriorating and helping to cause Alzheimer’s. In fact this drug is supposedly able to help add neurons t one’s brain, actually replacing one that were previously lost with age. This drug and several others ya hold the key to the future in treatment for Alzheimer’s, so continue to update yourself on it.
Tips to Make Your Parent’s Life a Bit Easier
It can sometimes get very frustrating to help care for your parent who has Alzheimer’s. This is especially so for a child, as it’s quite difficult to see your parents struggle to perform basic brain functions like remembering where a store is, that they’ve patronized for decades. Additionally, sometimes even simple physical tasks can get harder for your parent.
The following are some tips that should help ease your approach when dealing with the care of your parent with Alzheimer’s. We have looked at www.alzheimers.net for some of our information:
Try to establish a routine for each day and/or each week. This will make your life and theirs significantly more predictable. Knowing that every day at noon you and you parent are going for a walk around the block will mean that your parent will get less stressed around that time of day, as they know there’s something on the agenda.
Regarding a weekly schedule,you can also figure out which part of the day they’re overall more calm, and schedule errands, and doctor’s appointments in those slots.
Ideally, try to have your parent plan out the schedules with you ahead of time, so they’ll feel that they’re in control, and will be more happy to comply when the time comes.
Make things more obvious than they already are. An example would be to label a location where your parent often keeps their items, like a dining room table. By placing a card on the table that list it as such, it’ll become a lot easier for them to complete the simple task of placing the purse or hat down on it. This will equal less frustration on their part, and overall easier care for you.
Do your best to make the home in which your parent resides a safe place. This means, putting up safety gates next to a set of stairs, locking up drawers that contain knives or sharp tools, and placing padding on sharp corners.
When a parent forgets what they were looking for, they may pursue around a kitchen or pantry, and find something you’d be uncomfortable about, so do your best in creating as a safe a situation as possible for your parent with Alzheimer’s. More confusion for your parent can lead to more falls, so think about carpeting if they don’t already have that.
Ensure There’s Time For Yourself
Besides for the primary task of helping to provide care with your loved one who has Alzheimer’s, it’s also very important to take out time for yourself to recharge and reset. This is especially important due to unforeseen circumstance that may arise which will demand more time, effort and mental toughness to get through. If one has had the chance to have some time for themselves they’ll be that better to deal with difficult patches when helping their loved one with Alzheimer’s.
The following are some tips in how to manage “your” time around the care schedule of your parent or loved one with Alzheimer’s:
- Make sure you eat healthy, and exercise as often as you can. If one can do this on a daily basis, that’s ideal. Even a few times a week is excellent for you. Remember, that if you eat right and exercise, it will translate into a more focused and efficient you. This will of course mean better care for your parent suffering with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Ask other family members or friends to help once in awhile. Obviously, you should present it to them in a way where they won’t be intimidated, and provide them with all the information needed to try and maintain your quality of care giving. Note, that you should only choose someone who your parent would be comfortable with so as to avoid any issues with your parent.
- There are thousands of adult day care programs around the country, so why not give it a try? These programs often have various stimulating activities which your parent may enjoy. Perhaps more importantly, this will provide a setting where your parent can socialize with others, something which unfortunately people suffering with Alzheimer’s. Don’t do as much as they should.
These are but a few of several examples you can implement in your schedule to allow you to regain the focus you need in caring for your parent. This of course is better for not only you, but ultimately your parent as well. Be creative, and think of ideas that you would specifically enjoy.
Included in time that you need for yourself, should be speaking to someone about the situation, and how you feel about it. This includes just dealing emotionally with the fact that your parent has Alzheimer’s, and the fact that you are helping out with the care of him or her.
Talking to someone can include your sibling, spouse, friend or even a therapist. There are several support groups designated specifically for children who care for their parents with Alzheimer’s.
Fiscal Benefits for Being the Caretaker of a Parent with Alzheimer's
Helping out with the care of a parent who suffers from Alzheimer’s can sometimes be a daunting task. However it can be tremendously rewarding as you the child can oversee nearly all the details of the care. Additionally, someone caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s can potentially qualify for government compensation under CDPAP, a government program that allows people to select their home care providers. These providers can even be a relative or friend, and receive money for their service, as well as health and work benefits. One of the many diseases that justifiably qualify for home healthcare services is Alzheimer’s.
This means, that if your parent who suffers from Alzheimer’s qualifies for Medicaid, and is a New York State resident, they can request you as their official home care aide. Once this is done, you will receive financial compensation from the State for the services that you provide. You can also qualify for paid vacation and sick days, like a classic employee of a home care patient.
Dedication to Your Parent
Having a parent who has Alzheimer’s disease can be devastating for any family, especially for a spouse or child of the one who suffers from it. If you are a child who is primarily, or even partially dealing with the care of your parent, one key point is important to know. The amount of dedication you invest in their care will mean a more enjoyable life for your parent.
Educating oneself constantly on anything to do with Alzheimer’s is important, and especially those relevant facts that deal with your parent’s unique symptoms. Use the above ideas in this article to help better manage your parent’s Alzheimer’s, and be creative and add your own ideas when you think of them.
Lastly, as you head into the future, look for new developing ways and medicines that can perhaps alleviate the suffering of your parent, and maybe even rid him or her of the disease. The more you do for your parent will mean more meaningful memories with them together.