With an estimated one in nine people ages 65 and older developing Alzheimer’s, most of us will know a loved one affected by the disease. Because Alzheimer’s patients need an extensive amount of care and companionship, It is quite common for children and grandchildren to care for loved ones with this condition. In fact, when possible live-in home care is often the best option for people with Alzheimer’s, both for their comfort and for financial practicalities. (While many doctors recommend specialized “memory care” facilities for their Alzheimer’s patients, most health insurances, including Medicare, do not cover its high costs.) A home care aide allows people with Alzheimer’s to continue living at home while also getting the assistance with the activities of daily living they need to stay healthy.
If you have recently taken on the role of caregiver to a person with Alzheimer’s, you probably want to learn more but may not know where to start. Here, we cover some of the basic — and important! — tips to follow.
Practicing Individualized Care
Because Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that affects different people in different ways, it is extremely important to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for quality Alzheimer’s care. Each person will have a unique set of needs, preferences, and impairments to take into account. It is also vital to periodically reassess these factors, as they will change over time.
When appropriate and especially in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, make sure your loved one directs his or her own care as much as possible. Although talking with a loved one with Alzheimer’s is typically difficult — both short-term memory loss and confusion are early hallmarks of the condition — stay patient, try your best to avoid getting frustrated, and keep lines of communication open.
Preparing the Home Environment
When caring for a person with Alzheimer’s in a home care situation, there are a number of important safety measures you will need to take, especially if your loved one experiences severe cognitive impairment.
One universal tip that applies to anyone with mobility issues (not just those with Alzheimer’s) is to unclutter floors and avoid extension cords that may be tripped over or present a fire hazard.
Certain items should be kept away from the patient and preferably locked up securely: medications, alcohol — in addition to the obvious health dangers, alcohol may exacerbate symptoms of the disease — and weapons like guns and knives. For severely affected individuals, be sure to cover electrical outlets using plastic plugs.
Make sure all stairways have at least one handrail and a light switch at both the top and the bottom. Place a written list of emergency numbers near all phones in case your loved one needs help but cannot remember important numbers.
You will also need to install secure locks on doors and windows, both to prevent wandering if necessary and for added protection — people with Alzheimer’s are especially vulnerable to thieves.
Staying Safe in Bed
While making modifications to the house, the bedroom requires some special attention. Some of the most serious injuries any elderly person can suffer happen in the bedroom; nighttime awakenings lead to trips and falls that can in turn lead to major medical complications.
Make sure your loved one is safe in bed by anticipating and attending to all needs that may make someone try to get up at night. Address hunger, thirst, pain, restlessness, and a need to use the restroom ahead of time as part of your nightly routine.
While you can minimize the occurrence, your loved one will still periodically get out of bed during the night, so be sure to plan for that. Keep the floor uncluttered and free from things a person may trip on, such as rugs and space heaters. If possible, mats that do not introduce a trip hazard should also be placed around the bed to soften falls when they do occur. One or two night-lights can also provide much-needed visibility in the dark.
Be very cautious when considering hospital-style beds with bars along the sides, as they can themselves cause serious injury. Although effective in some situations, these bars may confuse an Alzheimer’s patient, who may try to climb over them.
If you live with the patient you care for, try leaving a baby monitor on the nightstand. If your loved one does experience a nasty fall, you will be able to act immediately to minimize the damage done.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is often difficult and time-consuming, causing many fulltime caregivers to significantly scale back their work outside the home. If you find yourself in this situation and your loved one is enrolled in New York Medicaid, you may qualify for a salary through the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program. To find out more about enrolling in CDPAP, contact us at FreedomCare today!