Sadly, ageing is associated with numerous diseases that further add to the grief of increasing infirmity. Alzheimer’s is one such devastating and debilitating condition that results from progressive deterioration of the mental faculties and can set in anytime from middle age onwards. It is the commonest form of senility that produces symptoms of memory loss and confusion; these symptoms result from degeneration of brain cell connections and eventual cell death resulting in destruction of all memory and other important mental functions.
In India, the incidence rate of Alzheimer’s is about 10 million new cases per year. Unfortunately there is no cure for this condition, only medications and management strategies adapted individually for each patient. The approach for caring for an Alzheimer’s patient depends on the extent of progression of his/her disease and the symptoms they manifest. In this way, the doctor and the care-giver can decide on the type and amount of assistance needed by the patient and his/her family. One important factor to keep in mind is that this is a progressive disease and once some skill is lost, there is no way it’s coming back.
So what we have left to work with is just the management of the patient, making him/her as independent, comfortable and safe as possible, while fostering a safe environment, maximizing their daily activities, enhancing cognition, mood and behavior and maintaining quality of life.
While caring for the Alzheimer patient, the care-giver needs to realize that the patient is eventually going to lose their abilities of performing daily tasks which will make them feel frustrated and agitated. Your job will be to give them simple tips on managing their daily tasks, to give them a sense of independence and dignity. Try to be flexible, have fewer expectations and adapt your own routine around the patients.
A few things to keep in mind include the following:
- Just as physical exercise and proper nutrition is essential for the individual, so also is socializing for those with Alzheimer’s.
- Plan daily activities for the person in accordance with the time he/she is at their most active.
- Its best to have a routine for the patient as it helps them to be familiar with their duties which once accomplished, helps give them a sense of achievement.
- Allow the person with Alzheimer’s to complete as many activities as they can on their own, even if you have to initiate it in the first place.
- As the individual eventually loses one or the other function, adapt their routines enabling the patient to participate as much as possible in other activities while keeping instructions as simple as possible.
- Provide a safe environment for the individual by removing potentially dangerous things away like car keys, matches and certain electric devices which are best used under supervision.
- Finally, as a care-giver, you need to give yourself relaxing breaks too – to enhance your own job as a care-giver.