Aker Kasten Blog

Education About Alzheimer’s Care Can Lead to Better Quality of Life

by: John Aker | August 22nd, 2017

Alzheimer's CareThe number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is growing in epidemic proportions, yet despite over 100 years of research, its definitive cause is not yet known and a cure remains elusive. Researchers are currently studying, among other things. factors such as diet, genes, and cardiovascular health to determine risk factors and overall disease development. However, researchers believe that for most people, there probably is not one single cause of Alzheimer’s disease, but rather a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. What is certain is that family caregiver education about the disease and its effects, as well as learning certain Alzheimer’s caregiving techniques, while preserving a family caregiver’s own wellbeing, can greatly improve the quality of life for persons with Alzheimer’s.

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be stressful, but there are many tips to help in the journey. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, oftentimes the person with Alzheimer’s cannot express how he or she feels with words and instead communicates feelings through behavior. Successfully dealing with problem behaviors in persons with Alzheimer’s disease begins by first identifying the cause or “trigger” of the behavior. Questions to think about include: What happened just before the behavior started? Where did the behavior happen? What happened right after the behavior? It is important to react calmly and reassuringly. Then to help avoid that behavior trigger or potential stressor in the future, the environment or caregiving atmosphere can be modified accordingly. Below are some common behavior triggers for those with Alzheimer’s and tips to sensitively manage those behaviors.

Trouble communicating. A person with Alzheimer’s may become agitated if he or she cannot figure out what you are saying or can’t find the right words to tell you what he or she wants. The agitated actions call out the emotions that the person is feeling inside. Respond to the emotion that is being communicated rather than the behavior. When giving instructions, break down what you are asking into one simple step at a time.

Unfamiliar Environment. A move to a different care environment, a change of caregivers, or being in an unrecognizable location can cause troubling behaviors. Persons may act nervous and upset—picking at clothes, wringing hands, crying, and making accusations or using repetitive speech. Repetition is thought to convey how the person is seeking security and familiarity. Do not try to reason or correct; rather, listen to what is troubling the person and try to understand his or her reality. A calm listener can have a calming effect on the behavior.

Over-stimulating Environment. Too many people, too much noise, garish colors in the environment, shadowy rooms or excessive clutter can also lead to agitation, hallucinations or aggressive behavior. Stay calm and at an arm’s length if safety is a concern. Provide reassurance and encourage the person to go with you to another place where it is well lit, quiet and calming. Always try to remain visible to the person with Alzheimer’s, and be careful not to approach from a path that isn’t in full view so as to avoid any surprises.

Physical Discomfort. Physical discomfort may come about due to illness, medication side effects or other factors, but the person with Alzheimer’s may not be able to communicate about the discomfort and may try to get the message across through behavior. So, check for pain, hunger, thirst, constipation, full bladder or tiredness. Also check to see if clothes are too tight or too loose. If medication side effects are the suspected cause of discomfort, contact the physician. Urinary tract infections are a particularly problematic issue, so check for that possibility if the change is acute and sudden.

While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are medications that can help to control some symptoms such as depression, aggression or hallucinations. It’s always important to discuss the pros and cons of medication with a doctor before making a decision regarding treatment—and be sure to consider the possible side effects of over-the-counter drugs to avoid reactions with other medicines.

Caring for the Caregiver

Frustration with tasks, tiredness, boredom and engaging with a stressed-out or agitated caregiver are also known triggers. Suggesting rest, activity and reassurance to care recipients, and respite care for caregivers, are positive ways to respond to needs.

It’s ok to accept help.

Caring for a parent or loved one with Alzheimer’s can seem an overwhelming task, and asking for care assistance leaves many feeling guilty. The mental strain alone that Alzheimer’s care demands makes it one of the most difficult conditions for which to provide care. Caregiver burnout can be inevitable without assistance.

Allowing a caregiver permission to accept help will alleviate stress and make for a more loving and supporting caregiver. To learn more about caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, contact Aker Kasten Home Health Care. We provide home health care throughout Palm Beach County.

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