Caring for Someone with Alzheimer's Disease

Reviewed Oct 5, 2017

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Summary

  • Caring for someone who has AD involves many challenges.
  • There are ways for caregivers to ease the strain, including joining a support group.

Alzheimer’s disease or AD is a disorder of the brain. Changes in the brain unique to AD lead to cell death. This destroys certain brain functions. People with AD have memory loss and confusion that gets worse over time. At the end stage of AD, people will need help with basic needs such as eating and bathing. AD cannot be stopped or reversed.

Changing relationships

AD is difficult for both the person with the disease and the caregiver. Caregiving is hard no matter what, but AD has its own unique challenges. There is an emotional toll as memory fades. Safety is a huge concern as people with AD can wander off or get lost. What’s more, the change in relationship causes strain. Once spouses, often one will become the caregiver for the other. In early stage AD, it may help to refer to yourself as a care partner rather than caregiver. This can help your loved one with AD hold onto some independence. It can also help ease the transition to needing to have total control.

Caregiving challenges

If you are the caregiver for a loved one with AD, the toll can be great. The costs are financial, emotional, and physical. It is a job like no other, with unique challenges.

  • AD is a complex disease. There is so much to learn, and things change a lot as the disease gets worse.
  • Daily care takes a great deal of time. In fact, it is really nonstop. It can take over family and even work life. AD caregiving takes much more time than it does for other illnesses.
  • There are hard choices to make. One of the hardest decisions is whether or not to put a loved one in a nursing home or AD facility. And if you choose to, it is hard to know when the time is right.
  • Many spouses caring for people with AD also have their own health problems. This can make it even harder.

Despite these challenges, caregiving is a loving act that can be very rewarding.

Tips for caregivers

There are some ways to help make caregiving easier:

  • Learn about the disease. Find a program near you that can teach you about AD and ways to deal with difficult symptoms.
  • Build a strong support network of family members, friends, and neighbors to help pitch in.
  • Explore respite care, which allows you a break while making sure your loved one with AD is cared for.
  • Use tools to cope with memory problems such as calendars, safety reminders, and written instructions for common household items.
  • Work with a counselor to improve coping skills if needed.
  • Join a support group. This is a great way to get emotional support from people who know what you are going through. It is also a way to share tips and resources for making caregiving easier.

There are also things caregivers can do in early stage AD to improve well-being for their loved one.

  • Plan ways to be physically active.
  • Serve balanced meals that are low in fat with lots of vegetables.
  • Include good sleep and plans with others in a daily routine.
  • Figure out which situations may be too stressful for the person with AD.
  • Talk to your loved one to find out what helps him relax.

Experts are not only working on new treatments. They are also finding ways to better support caregivers and improve care. For instance, adult day care centers and special care units in nursing homes may be great options.

Caregiving and mental health

Caregiving can be very stressful. It can take a toll on mental health. It is important for the caregiver to focus on self-care, too. Staying physically active is an important way to feel good. Make sure to also get enough rest. If you are caring for someone with AD, talk to your doctor about your stress level and your health. Taking care of yourself will also make you a better caregiver in return.

Resources

Mental Health America
www.mentalhealthamerica.net/finding-help
(800) 273-TALK

Alzheimer’s Association
www.alz.org
www.alz.org/care
(800) 272-3900 (24/7 hotline)

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
www.alzfdn.org
(866) 232-8484

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Eldercare Locator
www.eldercare.gov
(800) 677-1116

Family Caregiver Alliance
www.caregiver.org
(800) 445-8106

By Sarah Stone
Source: National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health, www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/understanding-memory-loss/help-serious-memory-problems; Alzheimer's Association, www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-early-mild-stage-caregiving.asp
Reviewed by Rekha Rao MD, VP Medical Director for New Hampshire and Rhode Island, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Caring for someone who has AD involves many challenges.
  • There are ways for caregivers to ease the strain, including joining a support group.

Alzheimer’s disease or AD is a disorder of the brain. Changes in the brain unique to AD lead to cell death. This destroys certain brain functions. People with AD have memory loss and confusion that gets worse over time. At the end stage of AD, people will need help with basic needs such as eating and bathing. AD cannot be stopped or reversed.

Changing relationships

AD is difficult for both the person with the disease and the caregiver. Caregiving is hard no matter what, but AD has its own unique challenges. There is an emotional toll as memory fades. Safety is a huge concern as people with AD can wander off or get lost. What’s more, the change in relationship causes strain. Once spouses, often one will become the caregiver for the other. In early stage AD, it may help to refer to yourself as a care partner rather than caregiver. This can help your loved one with AD hold onto some independence. It can also help ease the transition to needing to have total control.

Caregiving challenges

If you are the caregiver for a loved one with AD, the toll can be great. The costs are financial, emotional, and physical. It is a job like no other, with unique challenges.

  • AD is a complex disease. There is so much to learn, and things change a lot as the disease gets worse.
  • Daily care takes a great deal of time. In fact, it is really nonstop. It can take over family and even work life. AD caregiving takes much more time than it does for other illnesses.
  • There are hard choices to make. One of the hardest decisions is whether or not to put a loved one in a nursing home or AD facility. And if you choose to, it is hard to know when the time is right.
  • Many spouses caring for people with AD also have their own health problems. This can make it even harder.

Despite these challenges, caregiving is a loving act that can be very rewarding.

Tips for caregivers

There are some ways to help make caregiving easier:

  • Learn about the disease. Find a program near you that can teach you about AD and ways to deal with difficult symptoms.
  • Build a strong support network of family members, friends, and neighbors to help pitch in.
  • Explore respite care, which allows you a break while making sure your loved one with AD is cared for.
  • Use tools to cope with memory problems such as calendars, safety reminders, and written instructions for common household items.
  • Work with a counselor to improve coping skills if needed.
  • Join a support group. This is a great way to get emotional support from people who know what you are going through. It is also a way to share tips and resources for making caregiving easier.

There are also things caregivers can do in early stage AD to improve well-being for their loved one.

  • Plan ways to be physically active.
  • Serve balanced meals that are low in fat with lots of vegetables.
  • Include good sleep and plans with others in a daily routine.
  • Figure out which situations may be too stressful for the person with AD.
  • Talk to your loved one to find out what helps him relax.

Experts are not only working on new treatments. They are also finding ways to better support caregivers and improve care. For instance, adult day care centers and special care units in nursing homes may be great options.

Caregiving and mental health

Caregiving can be very stressful. It can take a toll on mental health. It is important for the caregiver to focus on self-care, too. Staying physically active is an important way to feel good. Make sure to also get enough rest. If you are caring for someone with AD, talk to your doctor about your stress level and your health. Taking care of yourself will also make you a better caregiver in return.

Resources

Mental Health America
www.mentalhealthamerica.net/finding-help
(800) 273-TALK

Alzheimer’s Association
www.alz.org
www.alz.org/care
(800) 272-3900 (24/7 hotline)

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
www.alzfdn.org
(866) 232-8484

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Eldercare Locator
www.eldercare.gov
(800) 677-1116

Family Caregiver Alliance
www.caregiver.org
(800) 445-8106

By Sarah Stone
Source: National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health, www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/understanding-memory-loss/help-serious-memory-problems; Alzheimer's Association, www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-early-mild-stage-caregiving.asp
Reviewed by Rekha Rao MD, VP Medical Director for New Hampshire and Rhode Island, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Caring for someone who has AD involves many challenges.
  • There are ways for caregivers to ease the strain, including joining a support group.

Alzheimer’s disease or AD is a disorder of the brain. Changes in the brain unique to AD lead to cell death. This destroys certain brain functions. People with AD have memory loss and confusion that gets worse over time. At the end stage of AD, people will need help with basic needs such as eating and bathing. AD cannot be stopped or reversed.

Changing relationships

AD is difficult for both the person with the disease and the caregiver. Caregiving is hard no matter what, but AD has its own unique challenges. There is an emotional toll as memory fades. Safety is a huge concern as people with AD can wander off or get lost. What’s more, the change in relationship causes strain. Once spouses, often one will become the caregiver for the other. In early stage AD, it may help to refer to yourself as a care partner rather than caregiver. This can help your loved one with AD hold onto some independence. It can also help ease the transition to needing to have total control.

Caregiving challenges

If you are the caregiver for a loved one with AD, the toll can be great. The costs are financial, emotional, and physical. It is a job like no other, with unique challenges.

  • AD is a complex disease. There is so much to learn, and things change a lot as the disease gets worse.
  • Daily care takes a great deal of time. In fact, it is really nonstop. It can take over family and even work life. AD caregiving takes much more time than it does for other illnesses.
  • There are hard choices to make. One of the hardest decisions is whether or not to put a loved one in a nursing home or AD facility. And if you choose to, it is hard to know when the time is right.
  • Many spouses caring for people with AD also have their own health problems. This can make it even harder.

Despite these challenges, caregiving is a loving act that can be very rewarding.

Tips for caregivers

There are some ways to help make caregiving easier:

  • Learn about the disease. Find a program near you that can teach you about AD and ways to deal with difficult symptoms.
  • Build a strong support network of family members, friends, and neighbors to help pitch in.
  • Explore respite care, which allows you a break while making sure your loved one with AD is cared for.
  • Use tools to cope with memory problems such as calendars, safety reminders, and written instructions for common household items.
  • Work with a counselor to improve coping skills if needed.
  • Join a support group. This is a great way to get emotional support from people who know what you are going through. It is also a way to share tips and resources for making caregiving easier.

There are also things caregivers can do in early stage AD to improve well-being for their loved one.

  • Plan ways to be physically active.
  • Serve balanced meals that are low in fat with lots of vegetables.
  • Include good sleep and plans with others in a daily routine.
  • Figure out which situations may be too stressful for the person with AD.
  • Talk to your loved one to find out what helps him relax.

Experts are not only working on new treatments. They are also finding ways to better support caregivers and improve care. For instance, adult day care centers and special care units in nursing homes may be great options.

Caregiving and mental health

Caregiving can be very stressful. It can take a toll on mental health. It is important for the caregiver to focus on self-care, too. Staying physically active is an important way to feel good. Make sure to also get enough rest. If you are caring for someone with AD, talk to your doctor about your stress level and your health. Taking care of yourself will also make you a better caregiver in return.

Resources

Mental Health America
www.mentalhealthamerica.net/finding-help
(800) 273-TALK

Alzheimer’s Association
www.alz.org
www.alz.org/care
(800) 272-3900 (24/7 hotline)

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
www.alzfdn.org
(866) 232-8484

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Eldercare Locator
www.eldercare.gov
(800) 677-1116

Family Caregiver Alliance
www.caregiver.org
(800) 445-8106

By Sarah Stone
Source: National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health, www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/understanding-memory-loss/help-serious-memory-problems; Alzheimer's Association, www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-early-mild-stage-caregiving.asp
Reviewed by Rekha Rao MD, VP Medical Director for New Hampshire and Rhode Island, Beacon Health Options

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