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Alzheimer's Caregiving: How to Prepare for Live-In Care

Alzheimer's Caregiving: How to Prepare for Live-In Care

Agreeing to care for ailing loved one may seem like an easy decision. You love your family member, so of course you want him or her to live somewhere safe and comfortable. But after making the decision to bring a family member with Alzheimer’s disease into your home, panic may set in. How can you possibly prepare for a disease you have no experience with,

and what if you fail to live up to your commitment? It’s normal to feel anxious about becoming a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, but there are a few things you can do to prepare.

Learn About the Disease

It’s impossible to know exactly what to expect with Alzheimer’s disease, but you can demystify the disease by learning about its basic progression. While the disease may manifest differently or move at a different pace from person to person, according to the Fisher Center, most sufferers follow a similar path:

  • Mild cognitive impairment: The subtle changes that mark mild cognitive impairment are easy to miss. Your loved one may begin to struggle at work or have trouble concentrating, but otherwise can continue to live life normally.

  • Mild Alzheimer’s disease: Deficits begin to become apparent in mild Alzheimer’s. Sufferers have difficulty managing high-level household tasks such as balancing the checkbook, preparing big meals, and grocery shopping. They may have trouble recalling the correct date or season and begin to socially withdraw due to their difficulties.

  • Moderate Alzheimer’s disease: Moderate Alzheimer’s disease begins when patients start to struggle with the routine tasks of daily life, such as cooking, dressing, and finding their way home. They fail to remember basic personal details such as their address or phone number, although ability can vary from one day to the next.

  • Moderately severe Alzheimer’s disease: As they enter the moderately severe stage, Alzheimer’s patients require around-the-clock care. Caregivers must assist with basic tasks like dressing, bathing, and toileting.

  • Severe Alzheimer’s disease: Severe Alzheimer’s marks the final stage of the disease. Speech becomes limited, the ability to walk independently is lost, and patients eventually become immobile before succumbing to the disease.

Know When to Step In

Most Alzheimer’s patients need daily assistance starting in the mild stage but don’t require live-in help until they progress to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. When you’re close to the patient, it’s hard to recognize exactly when that switch happens.

Difficulty dressing appropriately for the weather is the characteristic marker of moderate Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s an easy change for family members to notice. When grandma starts wearing shorts in December or putting on a parka in the heat of summer, it’s time to move her in. CBS News offers additional signs of impairment that you shouldn’t ignore. Waiting too long to step in after these symptoms emerge could put your loved one in danger.

Prepare Your Home

Before transitioning to live-in care, it’s important to prepare your home for the needs of an Alzheimer’s patient. While Alzheimer’s disease calls for many of the same modifications as other disabilities, some needs are unique. The following are some tips on how to prepare your home:

  • Account for mobility and visuospatial impairments by building a ramp to the main entrance, securing area rugs, installing grab bars in the bathroom, and keeping pathways free of clutter. Close off access to staircases and use a medical alert device in case of falls.

  • Help your family member process the environment by keeping interior design simple. Minimally decorated rooms and furniture in contrasting colors help Alzheimer’s patients find what they need. Ensure lighting is bright and even and keep your loved one’s bedroom and bathroom lit, using nightlights after dark.

  • Combat incontinence by locating your family member’s bedroom as close to a bathroom as possible. Install a toilet seat in a contrasting color so it’s easy to locate.

  • Use a security system with door and window alerts along with a wearable GPS device to protect against wandering.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. However, by arming yourself with knowledge and adapting your home, you ensure you’re as prepared as you can be. In addition to these steps, be sure to talk to your loved one’s doctor about unique care needs.

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