While many patients retain their independence for a period of time after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, some may need more help performing daily activities. For others, the diagnosis may have come only after weeks or months of coping with symptoms that did not have a name. Regardless of how long you’ve been dealing with Alzheimer's disease or to what degree, in some way Alzheimer's has affected your life and responsibilities - physically, emotionally, or economically.
The role of caregiver is not an easy one. However, the following tips offer some guidance on how to maintain and improve your caregiving relationship.
- Take time for yourself. Make sure you have time to relax. If necessary, enlist the help of other family members or even hire someone to help out.
- Learn as much as you can about your loved one's disease so you will know how you can help. You'll also understand what changes to expect in your loved one's behavior or symptoms.
- Help your loved one participate in as many activities in the home and outside the home as possible. Maintain the intricate balance between helping your loved one accomplish a task and actually doing the task for him or her. Allow the patient the time needed to complete daily activities on his or her own, such as dressing.
- Consult your loved one about his or her family affairs. Although it's not easy to discuss these topics, you should be informed of your loved one's wishes regarding a living will, durable power of attorney, and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders.
- Set realistic goals for yourself and your loved one. Do not attempt to do everything. By setting attainable goals, you are setting everyone up for success rather than disappointment.
- Do not put your life on hold. Continue to meet with friends, participate in hobbies or groups, and maintain a schedule as normally as possible. You will feel more energized and will be less likely to feel resentful in the long run.
- Have someone you can talk to. You are there for your loved one - to listen and to offer support - but you also need a support person. Talk openly and honestly with a friend or family member. If this is not possible, join a support group. Understanding that you are not alone and that someone else is in a similar situation helps you to feel nurtured.
The most effective caregiver is well informed, prepared, and asks for help and support from all available resources.