Caregivers Of Alzheimer’s Patients May Experience Higher Stress Levels
There are several kinds of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common. The Pegasus caregivers in Rosemead and elsewhere know how difficult it is to care for an impaired loved one. They offer factual information here to increase your understanding and ability to assist someone with dementia.
All forms of dementia lead to impaired cognitive ability. Patients experience progressive inability to think, concentrate, or remember. They eventually are unable to care for their physical needs, and as a caregiver, you’ll need stamina.
The need for assistance increases as daily activities that become increasingly difficult. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Bathing, and other personal hygiene tasks
- Using the bathroom – incontinence is not unusual
To the extent possible, establish routines for everything you can. Even though these are normal activities, your loved one can find them frightening. Routine helps reduce fear and frustration.
Sundowning And Wandering Present Additional Caregiving Challenges
Routine also helps with a condition called sundowning. Sundowning describes additional agitation or confusion late in the day. As well as established routines, you can reduce sundowning by:
- Avoiding late consumption of caffeine and sugar
- Limiting naps during the day
- Minimizing stimulating activities as the day wears on
- Planning relaxing activities for the evening hours
Experts also suggest consulting a physician, as medical conditions such as urinary tract infections are a cause of sundowning.
If your loved one is still mobile, they may wander. The reasons vary with the individual and can include boredom, fear, and disorientation, among others. You may be able to stop or control wandering if you can determine why it’s occurring.
If not, then you may need to install door locks and motion sensors. Make sure your loved one always carries some form of ID in case they wander outside. Have a recent photo to provide to searchers if the individual becomes lost.
If you don’t find your loved one within 15 minutes, notify the authorities. A dementia patient is regarded as a “vulnerable adult.” That means searchers will start looking immediately, rather than waiting the usual 24 hours.
Caregivers May Experience Exhaustion From Emotions Such As Grief, Loneliness, And Sadness
Along with the physical challenges of caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s, you will probably feel grief. You’re put in the position of watching a formerly capable person deteriorate. You’re on a roller coaster of emotions that can be exhausting.
Your loved one with dementia can become frustrated when they can’t do things that used to be routine. You then walk a fine line between helping them and letting them maintain some independence. Caregiving requires enormous amounts of patience and flexibility.
Some individuals become subject to hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia. They can act inappropriately or express unjustified anger or hostility. It’s not unusual for loved ones to no longer recognize family members as they continue to lose their memory.
Communication becomes more difficult as the disease progresses. Tips to improve communication include:
- Avoiding the use of baby talk
- Eliminating distractions, such as TV, when speaking
- Making eye contact when conversing
- Speaking in a gentle voice
- Using short sentences and simple words
- Using your loved one’s name to get their attention
Try to keep instructions very simple, and present them one step at a time. That usually means that you have to allow extra time for everything. You often have to adjust your expectations of what can be accomplished.
You can give the individual choices, but keep them simple. Try asking their preference between two activities. For example, ask if they would rather wear a blue sweater or a brown one.
Tips For Improving Patient Safety
A primary source of stress for caregivers is patient safety. As dementia patients become less physically able, their risk of falling increases. They also put themselves in danger as their ability to make sound judgments declines.
Safety precautions you can take include:
- Installing adequate lighting
- Keeping medications in locked cabinets
- Putting locks on doors to unsafe areas
- Removing any object that could cause tripping
- Setting water heaters at low temperatures
Steps to keep your loved one safe will depend on their impairment and what will reduce your stress.
Caregivers Often Experience Unrecognized Stress
Because your care usually increases slowly over time, you may not realize how stressed you are. Symptoms to be aware of include:
- Anxiety, depression, withdrawal from social activities
- Decline in your physical health
- Exhaustion regardless of how sleep you get
- Easily angered, annoyed, or irritated
Evaluate how you feel when you get up each morning. Do you look forward to the day? If you can’t remember the last time you felt good, you need relief.
You have likely been told dozens of times that you need to take care of yourself. Or that you can’t help another if you don’t help yourself first. Statements like these become cliches because they are true.
Accept help. Recruit family members or use community resources. You have to make time for yourself.
Pegasus professionals in Rosemead and our other locations are experienced in caring for dementia patients. We provide expert care in the patient’s home when you need a break. We’re available when the time has come for 24/7 home health care.