Discovering that you’ll be in charge of your loved one’s Alzheimer’s care may feel overwhelming at first. As their caregiver, you may feel stressed as you anticipate what challenges the disease will bring you and your loved one. However, you can ensure that the care you provide them allows your loved one to live comfortably with Alzheimer’s.
Educating yourself about the progression of dementia is crucial. Not only will this make you more informed about how to best to care for your loved one, but it will also allow you to better understand them.
Becoming well-versed in the medical information available to you will allow you to empathize with your loved one. Remember that as the disease advances, they are still present. Being empathetic is very important for maintaining a functional relationship with your loved one, which might become increasingly difficult as the dementia progresses.
Ultimately, the better you understand the disease, the better you will be able to understand their actions, stressors and potential changes in demeanor. Learn more about the Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s, the symptoms at each stage and what you or your loved one can do to support your wellbeing here.
Maintain a Daily Routine for Alzheimer’s Care
To maintain a routine and normality in your loved one’s environment, it is best to develop a daily schedule. Maintaining the same schedule on a day-to-day basis will help avoid confusion for your loved one, provide structure, and allow the two of you to spend meaningful time with one another.
Consider your loved one’s personal interests and passions, and how you might integrate them into structured activities to do together. Though stability is beneficial, remember to be flexible and consider how effective your care plan is. Does your loved one seem bored or disengaged during certain activities? Did a certain spontaneous activity excite or confuse them? Respond to their reactions, and adjust accordingly.
Consider the Benefits of Music
Music is largely underutilized by those who have loved ones with dementia. Research has proven that music provides many benefits for those who are living with Alzheimer’s. Additionally, musical memories are often preserved in the brain while other memories fade, so you may be surprised to discover your loved one still remembers all the words to their favorite song.
Singing along to music has the potential to drastically improve your loved one’s mood and reduce boredom. Moreover, it allows you to watch them do something in which they are competent and engaged. As someone who is very close to your loved one, you have every advantage to personalize song choices that hold meaning to them — for instance, their wedding song.
Meaningful songs have the potential to awaken memories and produce emotional responses within those with dementia. Integrating music into your daily routine together may help improve their quality of life.
Modify Your Home
Should your loved one continue to live at home, it’s important to make modifications to ensure their safety. Dementia generally impairs judgement, so your loved one may have an increased risk of injury.
Proof your home by reducing clutter, and consider installing handrails in key areas. Use locks on cabinets that could contain dangerous items: sharp kitchen tools, alcohol, medications, cleaning substances, and so on.
Use plastic plates and cups to avoid breakage, remove hazardous or sharp-edged furniture, and tape down electrical cords. Do online research to find extensive lists of important safety suggestions. Though some modifications may appear costly, it is important to consider the risks involved for your loved one, as well as alternative low-cost solutions.
Navigate the Cost of Alzheimer’s Care
Covering the cost of Alzheimer’s care may cause a lot of stress for caregivers. Long-term Alzheimer’s care can be very costly, especially as your loved one’s condition progresses. However, there are many federal programs available to assist with financial expenses. For most individuals who are age 65 or older, Medicare is the most common source of medical insurance. Although Medicare provides limited assistance for these costs (in-home care and assisted living are not covered), it helps cover the costs of diagnostic procedures and pharmaceutical prescriptions.
Consider Medicare Advantage plans, which expand upon normal Medicare coverage to include services such as caregiver support. In 2020, Medicare Advantage Plans are likely to cover more of the “non-medical” care that Alzheimer’s patients depend upon, including care homes for your loved one and home modifications. Medicaid has some advantages over Medicare, in the sense that it offers a degree of assisted living coverage, as well as paying for nursing home care.
In addition, consider looking into the following alternative resources: Veterans’ Programs, State Programs, Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), as well as your tax deductions and credits and potential work or retirement benefits. Furthermore, the Alzheimer’s Association can connect you with several low-cost or free support services, and provide resources to help you better understand what government benefits you are eligible for.
Join Alzheimer’s Support Groups
Although your role as caregiver will bring many challenges, it is important to remind yourself of the important role you play in your loved one’s life. There are many support groups and online communities for caregivers spanning across the globe, and such platforms showcase that others, too, share your struggles.
It can be comforting to know that other caregivers have experienced the same feelings of frustration, loneliness and anxiety as you, and are able to relate to the steps you’re taking to ensure your loved one remains content and safe as you provide their Alzheimer’s care.