According to Alzheimer’s Association, “Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks”. They also stated that “Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases”.
Due to their issues with memory, thinking and behavior, it is a must that their safety are being safeguarded strictly. The disease impairs their judgment and problem solving skills. They become dependent to their family, love ones or whoever caregiver chooses to take care of them. Therefore, it is essential to know exactly this how to’s of taking care of Alzheimer’s patients.
Issues And Challenges That Alzheimer’s Patients Are Facing
- Due to cognitive issues, their decision-making is poor therefore their safety is at risk.
- Frequent falls due to balance problems and depth perception issues.
- Inability to make their needs known.
- Poor verbal interactions.
- Depression as they become isolated to society.
- Inability to take care of themselves.
- Poor hygiene.
- Incontinence issues.
- They are prone to more medical issues as they are unable to tell exactly how or what they are feeling.
- Dehydration, constipation and diarrhea which are sometimes caused by the medications that they take.
- Dental problems.
- Physical disabilities.
- They maybe faced with behavioral issues such as physical aggression, angry outburst, wandering, hallucination, difficulties with sleeping and sun downing.
- Nutritional deficiency.
- Loss of privacy.
- Loss of control.
- Those that has become bed bound develops pressure sore or skin issues.
When I first got here in the U.S., before becoming a nurse, I was a Certified Nurse Assistant first. I was already an RN in my native country but I still need to complete my State Board so I worked as a CNA first. My first assignment was in Alzheimer’s unit which I found challenging and at first I was in shock. In my country, I never had the chance of caring for one so I really didn’t have any idea of what to expect.
The first few weeks was overwhelming for me as they were all total care and although they mostly can walk but they were all wanderers and has falling issues. They need to be assisted for everything. They all had the tendency of pulling their diapers off, taking their clothes off and would constantly have the need to walk around and wander off to other rooms.
Some were just so sweet and would try to hug and kiss you but some has behavioral issues like verbal and physical aggression. I remember one day after feeding a patient lunch, he suddenly became uneasy as he was having diarrhea. Due to his height and poor balance I assisted him back to his bed so I can clean him up better. But for some reason as I was cleaning him he got up and grabbed the wash cloth that I was cleaning him with and aimed it at me. The washcloth was soiled so I had to dock and immediately I needed to be rescued as he was becoming so agitated.
Another instance was when I was giving this lady a shower, she became agitated also while sitting in her shower chair and grabbed my breast and twisted them. I screamed in pain and had to get assistance to be able to finish her shower and cleaned her up well.
I have had other unforeseen experiences but those didn’t make me feel mad or any hatred as they were not aware of what they were doing. In my mind I was fortunate as I am able to care for them. The experienced though broke my heart so much.
There’s this guy who would look out the window every chance he can and ask when his family were coming to visit him. His tears will fall every time he would ask that question. The sad part ‘though was, his family visits him all the time, he just couldn’t recognize them. It was his daughter and her family that would often visits him.
That experience was physically and emotionally challenging especially when you know that it is a progressive condition. As a health care worker, patients are not the only one that needs to be supported, the family too as most of them didn’t have a choice but to take their love ones to a long term care facility.
Although there are some family that has chosen to care for their love ones that has Alzheimer’s desease at home. if you belong to those..these tips are for you.
How To’s Of Caring For Alzheimer’s Patients
- Safety first, so they cannot be left alone as they may fall or wander off. Safety promotion is very important by taking potentially dangerous substances and objects like cleaning supplies, matches etc.out of reach.
- They need to be assisted with all their activities of daily living, like eating, hygiene, going to the bathroom etc. Some are still able to do simple tasks, so allow them, by providing them cues thus allowing them to feel a little independence as possible.
- Their nutritional needs has to be assessed periodically and so as their fluid intake.
- Their urinary output and bowel movement needs to be monitored especially those that has medical condition or are taking certain medications as most of them are unable to verbalize if there’s problem going on.
- Nail care has to be looked into.
- Proper dental care is needed too.
- Skin care is very crucial as they are mostly incontinent and requires wearing diaper or pull ups.
- Regular follow up with their Primary Care Provider is essential.
- Make them feel a sense of dignity.
- Provide them with privacy as much as possible.
- Stay as patient as possible and set realistic expectations to avoid frustrations.
- Keep them occupied like giving them activities that they may enjoy as that will keep them engaged.
- Give them choices as that will provide them with better self-esteem by asking them what they prefer to eat, wear etc. Beware of giving them too many options as that may confuse them more.
- Avoid destruction when they are eating or doing tasks that requires them to focus as they are easily destructed.
Each individual who has Alzheimer’s disease has different level of needs and limitations. Behavioral differences too has to be taken into consideration, so approaches has to be catered accordingly. It is very important to preserve their good quality of life but not loosing sight of you as a caregiver. Involve other family members and friends. Allow other people to help. Join support groups.
Don’t be hard on yourself. Take care of yourself and stay as flexible as possible by allowing set backs as it will happen. Like if a bath didn’t happen today, then schedule it for another day. You as a caregiver is as important as the person that has the disease for without you, no one will be there for him/her. Your well-being is of utmost importance as that will enable you to face challenges ahead with an open mind.
I hope these tips and pointers are helpful. If you have questions and has any comment please leave them down below.