Steps for Family Members to deal with Alzheimer’s Disease

World Alzheimer’s Day is observed on September 21 to raise awareness against this disease. On this day, consultant psychiatrist Dr Santosh Bangar from Global Hospital shares some steps to help people, whose family members are suffering from it and deal with this disease.

Is your loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease? Are you worried about their and even your health? Do you want to know how caregivers can stay fit and fine along with the person? Then, on the occasion of World Alzheimer’s Day, September 21, observed every year to raise awareness regarding this condition, we brief you about the measures the family members should take for themselves and the loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Do you tend to misspell things? Are you over 60 and more forgetful than usual? Do you forget where you kept your specs, wallet, or taken medication? Is this affecting your day-to-day activities? And are these problems gradually getting worse? Then, beware! These can be early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

A large number of people along with their family members and caregivers find it hard to cope with this disease. It is essential to take appropriate care not only of the person with Alzheimer’s, but also of the family members. 

Alzheimer’s disease starts gradually and has a progressive course. The disease occurs as the nerve cells which control recent memory, planning, language and other brain functions are affected. These are due to the abnormal protein (plaque) deposition which lead to brain cell death.

The most prominent symptom is problems with recent memory, for e.g., remembering recent things, events or conversations, repeating oneself, learning new information, problem with thinking and behaviour. Age is a risk factor for this disease, but even younger people, especially in familial type, can be affected. 

Some of the other symptoms displayed can be loss of autobiographical memory, inability to read/write or understand/have conversation, lack of interest in social activities, inability to pay bills, shop or handle money, difficult to understand what’s going around in the surroundings. In later stages, the person may encounter total memory loss and even the inability to function independently. Thus, it is imperative to take immediate measures for the people with this disease and their families in order to help them lead a quality life.

How to take care of person with Alzheimer’s disease?

1.Caregivers and family members should be informed about the diagnosis: The symptoms tend to worsen as the disease progresses. The caregivers and the family members should educate themselves about this disease, keep calm, and support their loved ones. Help the person with daily activities and try to keep him/her happy.

2.Support them in doing the activities of his/her choice to preserve their independence and identity. 

3.Ensure they eat a healthy meal and encourage light exercise. 

4.Keep in regular touch with other family members and friends.

Set a proper routine: 

It is very important to maintain a proper routine. See that the patient is given medications from time to time. Remember to follow doctor’s appointments and go for regular follow-ups. Involve in activities of their interests like baking, cooking, puzzle-solving, and even singing or dancing.

Encourage communication:

Free flow of communication can be beneficial for the ones suffering from this condition. Family members should regularly communicate with patients. Use short and simple sentences. Ask them questions or let them describe any incident they remember. Encourage them to maintain eye contact and smile. Help them pronounce spelling and words as this will enhance their self-esteem. Most importantly, do not get angry or discouraged if the patient fails to do so. Slowly and gradually, the person will learn.

Ensure the patient’s safety: 

Create a safe environment around them. Help them with proper shoes, and install rails/handles at home so that they can walk with balance.

Tips for family members

1.It can be physically and mentally tiring being a carer. Remember to be calm and be patient. Keep in touch with relatives and friends to share their feelings of anger, frustration or guilt.

2.Avoid loneliness and be socially active. Take your ‘me time’. See to it that you have a shoulder to lean on. Opt for counselling, if need be.

3.Get involved in a carer support group

4.Set a sleep pattern and try to get a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep.

5.Exercise every day to release stress and opt for relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation.

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