A major cause of mental deterioration among the over-65 population is Alzheimer’s disease. More than 50 percent of nursing home residents in this country have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, yet most of the victims of this disease are cared for at home by family members or private duty caregivers. This disease is chronic, progressive and ultimately will force the Alzheimer’s patient to be totally dependent on others for their care.
In order to better help persons providing care to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, below is a brief description of the stages of Alzheimer’s disease. There are some important points to be aware of while caring for them.
Stage I: At this beginning stage, many people are able to cover up their memory loss, decreased speech and even their emotional agitation, depression or apathy. During this stage, many people with Alzheimer’s sense that something is changing and rather than be embarrassed, they simply withdraw from family activities. Family members may not recognize the pattern of this deterioration, may not admit to it, or may feel all older people are forgetful and withdrawn. Family members may label the persons with Alzheimer’s as careless or disinterested. This condition, however, gets progressively worse.
Stage II: During this period extending over many years, the person’s memory progressively worsens. He or she may stop speaking, begin wandering and repeat movements in a meaningless way. At this time, the persons with Alzheimer’s often becomes less involved in his or her care and, less and less, a contributing member of his or her family. Often, they may put all types of things in their mouth, his or her appetite may increase and their activity may be in the form of continually pacing small areas.
Stage III: This is the terminal stage. It is a time when the family must give continual supervision to the person with Alzheimer’s. Their appetite may decrease further, and they may need to be coaxed to eat and drink. Unfortunately, some persons may become unresponsive. At this point, persons caring for those with Alzheimer’s have to look to professional housing options.
Once the family or the people closest to patient with Alzheimer’s acknowledge the presence of the disease, there are some important questions that will need to be addressed. Who will make healthcare and/or financial decisions when the person is no longer able to do so? How will their care needs be met? Where will the person live?
While these questions are often not easy to bring up to the person with Alzheimer’s, or for that matter to anyone, addressing them is very important. If addressed early, having the person’s wishes for care written down on paper often ensures their choices will be followed and respected. Also to be considered, is speaking to an attorney about power of attorney for both healthcare needs and personal finances.
These are some specific suggestions for caring for a person with Alzheimer’s:
• Be alert for their safety.
• Provide a quiet, unstressed environment.
• Maintain their personal hygiene.
• Maintain a toilet routine.
• Offer small, nutritious meals.
• Make sure they drink lots of water.
• Monitor their sleep habits.
• Be supportive.
• Don’t be judgmental.
It is quite difficult for anyone to adequately care for an Alzheimer’s victim due to the progressive nature of the disease. Addressing the matter and being proactive is by far the best choice for achieving positive results.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.