A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be devastating, both for the patient and their family, but it’s important to
take it step by step. Or perhaps more precisely: stage by stage. The natural course of Alzheimer’s is divided into three stages, with different challenges
at each stage, both for the patient and
for their caregiver.
We at Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Hamilton, NJ, have extensive experience with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other cognitive disorders, and would like to offer these Alzheimer’s caregiver tips for coping with all stages of the disease.
Caregiving During the Diagnosis
- It takes time to adjust to the diagnosis. For many people, the immediate reaction is denial. However, as you are able to, share the news. You will probably find more support and understanding than you expect.
- Know — and let the person who has been diagnosed know — that they will always play an important role in the lives of their loved ones.
Caregiving During Early-Stage Alzheimer’s
- Independent living is still possible for most people in the early stage of Alzheimer’s. Use this time to discuss plans for the future with your loved one, and to make as many important decisions as possible.
- Start treatment as soon as possible. Early intervention has been shown to lessen the severity of Alzheimer symptoms.
- You and your loved one will go through a form of grieving. Accept your emotions, and talk about them with your loved one. Having an open dialogue will enable you both to handle your feelings more easily.
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Joining a formal or informal support group to help you stay healthy, both physically and emotionally. Be sure to visit the Alzheimer’s Organization It offers a wealth of information and support for people coping with this diagnosis.
Caregiving During Middle-Stage Alzheimer’s
- The middle stage of Alzheimer’s is usually the longest; it often lasts years. It is important to try to remain patient, flexible, even hopeful. The disease is progressing, but there are still good days ahead.
- Being the caretaker for a person with Alzheimer’s can be exhausting, physically and emotionally. As your responsibilities grow, it becomes easier to overlook your own needs, and those of your family. Don’t do it. If you find that you are starting to show signs of caregiver burnout — even better, before you show signs of caregiver burnout —consider respite care so that your life retains balance and joy. Hamilton Grove has a respite program that allows you to recharge your own batteries, while knowing that your loved one is being well cared for.
- Safety becomes an important issue during the middle stage of Alzheimer’s. Usually the patient will have to give up their car keys, and with it much of their independence. Communication and basic grooming may become difficult. Whenever possible, try to share simple activities, like taking a walk. These simple activities have been shown to enhance the person’s quality of life, and can reduce the anxiety that often grows during middle-stage Alzheimer’s.
- During the middle stage of Alzheimer’s, the illness will become severe enough that it will become unsafe for your loved one to live alone. Though it may be difficult, you will have to consider other living arrangements. If this involves moving into a care facility, be sure to find one that offers special services for residents with Alzheimer’s, like the dedicated Alzheimer’s Unit at Hamilton Grove.
Caregiving During Late-Stage Alzheimer’s
- The late stage of Alzheimer’s can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. During this stage, expect serious deterioration in your loved one’s health. They will probably need full-time help; they may have trouble walking, and even swallowing.
- Enhance their life and preserve their dignity in whatever ways possible. Your loved one may no longer be able to communicate, but research shows that they may still enjoy activities such as singing familiar songs, looking through old photo albums, getting a massage, or even having their hair gently brushed.
- It is likely that your loved one will not be able to stay at home, even with assistance. Be sure that any facility you consider for them offers staff who are well trained in handling the many needs of a person who may be nonverbal and bedridden. At Hamilton Grove, the caregivers in our Alzheimer’s Unit receives special training and caring for this vulnerable population.
- During late-stage Alzheimer’s, some of the most difficult decisions about care will come up. This is typically an extremely stressful time, and it is important for the caregiver to have proper support during the decision-making process, and for them to make peace with their decisions.
Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Hamilton, NJ, provides care specifically designed to address the needs of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other cognitive disorders.
For the safety and well-being of our cognitively impaired residents, we have a separate secure unit, whose wide corridors are homelike and easy to navigate. Our goal is to create an environment with a sense of familiarity and security.
The caregivers in our Alzheimer’s unit are specially trained to care for memory impaired residents. With their extra sensitivity and understanding of the condition and its impact, our caregivers treat each resident with dignity and love.
Our care program for the cognitively impaired helps residents maximize cognitive function. Likewise, the activities program is designed to foster social interaction and an appreciation of life.
For people in more advanced stages, innovative sensory therapies such as audiovisual stimuli and aromatherapy are beneficial in inducing a sense of calm.