By: Kathy Kappler
Typically, when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) or Dementia, the family wants to undergo a trial period of keeping their elder at home before considering transitioning to a senior care community. This is both noble an admirable since elder care is extremely stressful, albeit rewarding.
However, even if your loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease is in the early stages and seems to be alert and focused, it is still important to take the necessary precautions. Many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s involve forgetfulness and defensiveness, so while your elder may seem capable, take the necessary measures to ensure their safety.
A Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease
When you take on the role of caregiver, it’s important to educate yourself in Alzheimer’s, so that you can address any concerns that may arise. After all, when caring for an elder at home, there may be periods where they are alone and that’s all the more reason to be vigilant when you’re present. Here are nine caregiver tips and preventative measures for elders with Alzheimer’s Disease:
- Cook for your Elder
We mention this one a lot and it’s because the consequences are so dire. Allowing your elder to cook at home is extremely dangerous. There have been numerous cases (not just a rare few) of elders forgetting to turn the stove off. Some seniors may even leave their home to run errands and forget that the stove is on.
- Ensure Proper Storage of Food
Many adult children (turned caregivers) forget this one because they assume all too quickly that their elder will have fresh food in the fridge. This is not always the case.
Sometimes, even more than making sure food is fresh, you need to make sure that it’s microwave safe (I’ve dealt with a family whose microwave actually caught on fire and blew up!).
- Secure Bathrooms and Sinks
Oftentimes, elders – like with the stove – may forget that they’ve turned the water on in the bathroom, tub, or kitchen. This may not only lead to heightened bills, but could also be potentially dangerous if it overflows. Remember, falls are the number one cause of injury in elders, and if your bathroom is slippery, you’re asking for disaster.
- Always Know Their Whereabouts
It’s extremely common for seniors with memory loss to walk out of their house and get lost. It’s so common that there are numerous Alzheimer programs in place to find your senior should they go missing (see Alzheimer’s Foundation of America for example).
It’s not only possible for them to get lost, but I’ve seen elders grow increasingly frustrated because they can’t remember that the gate combination to their housing complex has changed.
- Track Medications
This one is of paramount importance! It’s one thing to forget taking medications and it’s another entirely for seniors to accidentally take their medication multiple times. This can be potentially life-threatening, so watch those medications like a hawk! Also, programming an alarm to go off daily helps seniors to keep track of their meds as well.
- Take Care of the Pets
Obviously, pets are living, breathing, caring creatures that need to be attended to, so this one goes without saying, but it’s important to note that your elder may not be taking care of them. If that is the case, you need to make sure they always have fresh food and water as well.
- Try to Limit Triggers that May Cause Frustration
Your loved one may struggle with phone numbers or remembering who to call and when. It always helps to have a cheat sheet by the land line in case of an emergency, or setting the speed dial in their cell phone.
In addition, if your elder spends time watching television, then make sure the remote is in an easily accessible space or within eyesight. These may seem like simple precautions, but they may be crucial to your senior’s livelihood since, if they’re unable to perform common tasks or even indulge in some recreational activities, it’s going to frustrate them, causing increased stress and anxiety for all parties involved.
- Do Laundry (OFTEN)
Often, when seniors suffer from a neurodegenerative disorder, they don’t realize which clothes are clean and which need to be washed. You don’t want your elder walking around in soiled or filthy clothing. Do laundry so that your senior can stay happy and healthy.
- See Passed the Denial
No senior should feel like they’re being babied or “locked-up” in their home or even an elder care community. However, if your senior starts attacking you for taking the necessary precautions and claiming, “I don’t need that,” understand that denial – and sometimes, even humor – is used to offset their condition. These nine caregiver tips may seem degrading, but the intent is solely to make your senior’s life easier. It’s to relieve them of tasks or duties that would otherwise challenge them negatively. Just remember, you’re doing them a favor.