Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition. Meaning, it leads to a gradual deterioration of the brain cells of the patient. As a result, the Alzheimer’s patient goes through certain behavioral changes.
A son/daughter staying with an Alzheimer’s disease parent can benefit by being aware of these changes. Dealing with an Alzheimer’s parent can become a tad easier if you learn to anticipate their moods and feelings beforehand.
Also, keeping things simple can be a shrewd strategy, suggests a report by the National Institute of Aging. Avoid overloading your parent’s mind with a series of questions or suggestions. Help them focus by slowing things down.
Best Tips on Dealing With an Alzheimer’s Parent
#1 Try to Keep the Late Afternoons Quiet and Serene
Alzheimer’s disease alters the circadian rhythms (also known as a biological clock) of the patient.
Our mind and body are designed to function in accordance with the natural sunlight. As a result, humans experience mild physical, mental and behavioral changes throughout the day.
Notice if your loved one gets agitated, confused, restless, angry, or anxious during the late afternoon period. If yes, they might be experiencing a condition known as sundowning, a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.
How to cope with sundowning in an Alzheimer’s parent?
If you sense your Alzheimer’s parents experience the aforementioned symptoms of sundowning, the first thing you might want to do is pay complete attention to what they have to say. Assure them that you are there for them and you understand how they feel.
Furthermore, you can prevent the sundowning from getting triggered by keeping their room clean, quiet, and distraction-free.
Ask the professional caregiver (if you have hired one) to wait in another room. You can play some relaxing music but only if it seems to help.
Physical activity early in the day seems to be the best way to prevent sundowning in an Alzheimer’s patient. Take your parents on a short morning walk. Or let them rest in a nice and relaxing park for a few minutes a day.
#2 Have a Daily Routine
Depending on the stage of the disease, your parent may or may not remember to perform the activities of daily living. This is where a daily routine comes into the picture.
The routine should include necessary activities such as going to the toilet, bathing, going for a walk, dinner, so on and so forth.
Your primary goal here is to avoid any kind of confusion or doubt in your parent’s mind. They should always have a sense of where the day is heading.
It is best to have multiple whiteboards installed in your home. Each whiteboard should detail the activities to perform in that particular area.
For instance, let a whiteboard (installed in the toilet) remind your parent to wash their hands every time they visit the loo. The instructions written on the whiteboard will also keep other family members current with your parent’s schedule.
#3 Learn to Focus on the Sub Communication
Do not ignore your parent if they are unable to form a proper sentence or frequently seem to jumble up words. Pay attention to how they are feeling when they reach out for help. Also, take into account their primary intentions when they say something to you.
Dealing with an Alzheimer’s parent involves focusing on what’s being communicated— and not the words or sentences. Sub communication is the way a person says something.
For instance, your parent might say they are comfortable but the tonality of their voice, facial expressions, and body language may be pointing to something else. Your mom/dad has not turned into a shy person. They simply have lost the ability to say what they feel.
Also, note that you are a make-shift caregiver for your parent. You may not be professional with years of training in the field of nursing. Cut yourself some slack. Do not beat yourself up if you fail to understand your parent.
If you are not a people person, this YouTube video by TJ Guttormsen will help you learn the fundamentals of sub communication.
#4 Do Not Argue With Them
Arguing or reasoning with your Alzheimer’s parent does not help, and most often makes the matter worse. It is common for Alzheimer’s patients to become paranoid.
If you find yourself getting drawn into arguments— started by them— take a step back. Breathe deeply and look at things objectively. Always be the one to break away from an argument. Do not wait for a resolution.
Likewise, you also don’t want to talk to them condescendingly. If they happen to make a mistake or act irrationally, try distracting them by offering them their favorite food.
You can also play their favorite song. Any kind of distraction helps as long as it gets their mind off from the argument.
Also, you might want to sidetrack the conversation subtly. Sudden changes or movements can make them defensive.
Furthermore, your parent may not be able to discern the content of what you say but they can sense how you feel about it. Be aware of your vocal pitch and tonality. Talk to them softly and slowly. Especially if they are agitated with something.
#5 Keep a Track of Your Parents Outdoor Activities
Outdoor activities like walking, relaxing in a park, people watching from a distance, and playing board games with fellow elderly keep an Alzheimer’s patient feeling happy and upbeat. You can let your parent go out alone, but only they do not wander.
Wandering is very common for dementia patients. For them, it can be challenging to remember the road back home, and as a result, they often get lost.
Having said that, not all Alzheimer’s patients wander. You don’t have to worry if this does not sound like your parent. Feel free to skip this section.
How do you prevent your parent from wandering away from home?
If your parent do wander when left alone, make sure the doors are always locked. You can install a password-protected door lock. They are easily available online. Further, you can also place a signboard on the door reminding your parent of their boundaries.
In serious cases, family members of an Alzheimer’s patient are advised not to leave them unattended.
Dealing with an Alzheimer’s parent is not easy and you might also need to seek help from a full-time caregiver. If the situation gets out of hand, consider transferring them to a nursing home.
The above post is intended to help you deal with common issues faced by family members of an Alzheimer’s patient. Consult a certified medical professional if the situation gets out of hand.
Also, note that it is common for an Alzheimer’s patient to need frequent medical attention. They can incur infections and allergies very easily.
A professional caregiver makes your job a lot easier as they are trained for such challenging tasks.