June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness month. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 5 million Americans are currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As Americans live longer and longer more people are developing the disease. One in nine Americans 65 and over has it.
While many Americans with Alzheimer’s are living in an environment where they receive professional memory care 24/7, many are living at home. Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s presents an enormous challenge. It is estimated that friends and family contribute 18.1 billion with a “b” hours caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Those estimates include 15.9 billion people who lose an average of $15,000 of income annually to lost work hours.
So how do you care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s more efficiently and without exhausting your time, money and physical and emotional energy? Here are a few tips we can give you from our memory care experts.
1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, patients are still capable of planning and living independently. At this point in time it is absolutely critical to lay out as many long-term plans as possible. Having plans in place for the day when your loved one might no longer be able to keep house, manage their finances or manage their calendar will make the transition to those eventualities easier on you and on your loved one. While the discussions may be difficult at first, they will only become more difficult if they are put off due to the degenerative nature of Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Keep a Tight Routine
When you get into the practice of creating a recognizable routine, your loved one will feel more confident and in control when they know what to expect from a given day. If you are going to create plans that deviate make sure to schedule them when your loved one is at their most lucid and able to contribute to the conversation. The goal is not to control them but to allow them to have as much control over their lives as possible while you provide support.
3. Keep a Home Clean and Free of Clutter
In this day and age we have more and more devices and distractions that clutter up our homes from electronics to snacks to ever growing piles of junk mail and more. The more that clutter and confusion can be eliminated the better. You want to eliminate the risk of your loved one tripping over power cords, losing their books and jewelry under piles of clutter or knocking over glasses that have been left around the living room. A clean environment is one free of the unexpected and the frustrating.
4. Take Care of Yourself
While it might be admirable to put someone else’s needs above your own, the fact of the matter is that loving someone with Alzheimer’s causes additional strain on you. Make sure that you are monitoring your own health, both mental and physical. Make sure you are eating, sleeping and drinking regularly and make sure that you are doing things to let off steam. Find friends who aren’t as close to your loved one to give you support. Burning yourself out helps no one.
5. Get Help When The Time Is Right
There will come a point in time when you will no longer be able to care for your loved one on your own. The sad truth about Alzheimer’s is that it is irreversible and the point will come when your loved one will need some kind of professional memory care. You should study up on your options in advance and see how your loved one responds to different doctors and environments. Schedule tours, read recommendations and talk to people you know who’ve been in a similar situation so that you can make the most informed decision possible.
For more information on caring for someone with Alzheimer’s and related conditions and to see if your loved one would benefit from living at a full-time memory care community, please visit us at rcjl.org or call us at 925.648.2800.