Alzheimer’s disease is the type of dementia that is more frequently seen among the older population. It is characterized by a worsening of the person’s cognition, particularly in thought, memory and in language, a progressive decline in the ability to perform activities of daily living and may even be accompanied by changes in behavior.
Dealing with Alzheimer’s can be very stressful for the individual as well as for loved ones. The progression of the disease may render the person in need of total care as it affects even the most basic skills necessary for daily existence.
Let’s take mealtimes, for example. For a person with Alzheimer’s, even nutrition may pose a challenge. There are normal physiologic changes that come with aging, such as a diminished sense of taste and smell, and indeed, these may affect the individual’s desire to eat. But when dealing with Alzheimer’s, the person may even forget to eat or in other cases, he may want to eat but has forgotten how to prepare meals. Through the course of the disease, he may eventually lose his table manners and may have difficulty swallowing. Agitation and distraction may also develop.
To alleviate these problems, family members often find it necessary to call their loved ones to remind them to eat or instruct them step by step on how to prepare meals. It is a good idea to provide small, frequent meals which are more in line to finger foods that are high in calories. Decreasing the environmental stimuli, by taking extra utensils off the table and using bright, solid-colored plates may address distraction. To encourage self- care and independence we recommend using spoons with large handles and bowls. This just makes for a more enjoyable mealtime.
Nutrition is just one of the many hurdles when dealing with Alzheimer’s. People with Alzheimer’s disease often need assistance with other activities of daily living such as bathing, toileting and changing. It is necessary to balance this need for assistance with as much independence as possible. The family caregiver must allow your loved one to do as much as he can while providing the least amount of help. For this, patience and flexibility are crucial.
Dealing with Alzheimer’s can be fulfilling for the caregiver but can be as draining as well. Losing a loved one in this way is heartbreaking. Dealing with Alzheimer’s is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. We often times find that family members tend to lose sight of their own needs as they care for their loved ones. When in stressful situation such as this, it is important to realize that home care is an option. It is important to take care of your needs so that you can be strong for your loved one.