Anyone caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease likely can relate to former first lady Nancy Reagan, who called the illness suffered by former President Ronald Reagan “a truly long, long goodbye.”
Mrs. Reagan, who died March 14 at age 94, was a tireless advocate for Alzheimer’s patients and their families, recalls Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. Ronald Peterson who knew the Reagan’s well. “In many respects, Mrs. Reagan was the optimal caregiver, providing love and support for the President in a fashion similar to many other Americans whose families deal with this difficult diagnosis. In 2015, an estimated 5.3 million Americans had Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. As the disease progresses, once-simple tasks become difficult or impossible.
Practical tips can help your loved ones maintain a sense of independence and dignity. To limit challenges resulting from Alzheimer’s:
Establish a routine to make each day more predictable and less confusing. Schedule the most difficult tasks, such as bathing or medical appointments, for the time of day when your loved one is most calm.
Adapt Your Routine as Needed
If your loved one insists on wearing the same outfit every day, consider buying a few identical outfits, When your loved one is bathing, switch the worn outfit for a clean one.
Take Your Time
Expect things to take longer than they once did. Schedule more time to complete tasks, so you don’t need to hurry your loved one.
Involve Your Loved One
Allow your loved one to do as much as possible with the least amount of assistance. For example, perhaps your loved one can dress alone if you lay out the clothes in the order they go on.
The fewer the options, the easier it is to decide. For example, provide two outfits to choose between–not a closet full of clothes. Eliminate belts or accessories that are likely to be put on incorrectly
Turn off the TV, and minimize distractions at mealtime and during conversations, so your loved one can better focus on the task at hand.
BE SPECIFIC WHEN YOU OFFER HELP TO SUPPORT A FRIEND CARING FOR A LOVED ONE
*I’m going to the grocery store. What can I pick up for you?”
*I’ve got a few free hours tomorrow. May I sit in for you, while you run errands or take time for yourself?”
*I doubled my meatloaf recipe, so I could share with you. I brought enough to last you for several meals.”
*Does your yard need to be mowed? I’d be happy to take care of it this weekend.”
CHECK IN WITH THE CAREGIVER
Sending a card or calling a caregiver can be a meaningful way to show support. Emails and text messages work, too. However, personal visits can be better. Contact with the outside world can lift a caregiver’s spirits. Mayo Clinic, News Network