Caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease

Published September 21, 2021, 8:37 AM

by Cheshire Que

Always treat them with dignity

She appeared to be strong and physically healthy at the age 58 yet the forgetfulness became more pronounced as the days and weeks went by. Then came the inability to recall recent events in her life. She would ask the same question over and over again. There were mood swings, crying spells, a lot of spacing out until the time came when she could no longer express herself verbally. There were occasions when she would hit us out of frustration. She was my maternal grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for 15 years.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia that affects the brain’s ability to control memory, language, and thought process. It is a progressive disease that may begin to manifest through mild memory loss. As the condition worsens, severe memory impairment occurs. It may also render the individual unable to carry on a normal conversation, as well as respond accordingly to environmental stimuli. It also affects the ability to do activities of daily living like eating and bathing oneself.

Science has a lot to explore when it comes to the cause and prevention of this debilitating disease. Experts have explained that one of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease is the abnormal accumulation of the protein amyloid and tau in the brain. These proteins form plaques and tangles that impair the brain function. Recently, studies have linked type 2 diabetes to the development of Alzheimer’s disease due to insulin resistance in the brain. It simply means that the brain is having difficulty utilizing the hormone insulin, thus brain cells cannot use glucose or sugar as a source of energy. Glucose is then left in the blood, increasing blood glucose level. Glucose is the brain’s primary source of energy.

Getting inflicted with Alzheimer’s disease is devastating not only to the patient but the family members as well. The pain of no longer being recognized by your loved one is truly heartbreaking. Taking care of the patient and watching your loved one succumb to the disease damages you physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is important for caregivers to have some respite. One must take care of one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs first in order to be able to give the best care possible. It is not an act of selfishness but rather a practical way of equipping oneself to be able to efficiently take care of the patient. For example, if the patient is resting, take time to do things to unwind and destress even for a short period of time. Be kind to yourself too.

Experts have explained that one of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease is the abnormal accumulation of the protein amyloid and tau in the brain. These proteins form plaques and tangles that impair the brain function.

When caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, the caregiver must consider a few important guidelines.

Treat the patient with respect and dignity at all times, even if he or she is no longer their old self. Even when the patient gets to the point of being 100 percent dependent on the caregiver. Never yell or scold the patient even if he seems to be child-like.

Always bear in mind that safety is a priority. Take precautions that may cause the patient to slip or fall. Remove any harmful objects that the patient can grab on to. Frustrations are common among patients as they cannot verbally express themselves. They feel that they are misunderstood too. They can act out due to frustrations, as well as fear.  Always make the patient feel secure. Don’t leave them in the dark. Sometimes, what they need is just your silent presence or a simple touch to make them feel that they are not alone. You can talk to them in a calm manner or play music to soothe anxiety.

Manage your expectations. Always expect that you need to put in extra patience and need grace in caring for patients. Feeding and doing other activities of daily living will take more time. Try to set a daily routine. Give the patient the opportunity to engage in activities like feeding with guidance or taking small steps every now and then. If able, allow them to make simple choices. For example, offer two sets of clothing for the day and let the patient choose according to preference. Try to make things less complicated and as basic as you can.

Taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is not easy, but given the right education, proper perspective, and setting the right expectations, the caregiver can give the best care possible.

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