Alzheimer’s disease is an illness that affects cognitive functioning when an abnormal buildup of fragmented protein clusters impede neurological activates in the brain which cause memory, thinking and behavioral problems.
Properly caring for an Alzheimer’s patient requires maintaining a daily routine, for both the caregiver and patient.
At some point in time Alzheimer’s patients will need help with bathing, brushing their teeth, getting dressed and even combing their hair. However, because these are very personal activities, patients will often resist assistance due to embarrassment or being angry because they can no longer care for themselves.
Helping Alzheimer’s patients to bath is perhaps the most difficult job for caregivers, but planning ahead can help make bath time easier.
- Follow the patient’s general bathing habits and schedule, such as taking the bath or shower in the AM or PM.
- Always check the temperature of the water.
- Install a hand-held showerhead.
- Place a rubber mat or safety strips in the tub or shower.
- Use a sturdy shower chair to support the patient.
- Never leave a frail or confused patient alone in the tub or shower.
Alzheimer’s patients usually require extra time to get dressed, as it can be hard for them to pick out the proper clothing and may choose improper clothing for the season. However, allow the patient to dress alone for as long as possible. Here are a few tips:
- Lay out the patient’s clothes in the order the garments will be put on, such as undergarments, pants and shirt, sweater, etc.
- Keep most of the patient’s clothes in another room in order to reduce the amount of choices and keep only a couple of outfits in the bedroom closet or dresser.
- Buy multiple sets of the same outfit if the patient insists on wearing the same clothing every day.
- Velcro fasteners on clothing are easier for Alzheimer’s patients to fasten than buttons and laces.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Consuming healthy foods is very important for Alzheimer’s patients, as there is some evidence that well-balanced diet may have a positive effect on symptoms.
- Serve green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits and wholegrain breads and cereals.
- Make certain to serve foods the patient likes and is able to eat.
If an early-stage Alzheimer’s patient lives alone:
- Buy foods that do not need to be cooked or that require minimal preparation.
- Call to remind the patient to eat.
In the early stage of Alzheimer’s the patient’s eating habits usually won’t change, but when changes do happen it may not be safe for the patient to continue to live alone. Watch for these signs:
- The patient forgets to eat.
- Food is burned because it was forgotten on the stove.
- The stove or oven was left on.
Activity and Exercise
Being active helps Alzheimer’s patients to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Alzheimer’s patients should be encouraged to do as much as they can for themselves, but you must also make sure that the patient is safe during activities.
- Dress the patient in comfortable, well-fitting clothes and shoes suitable for exercising.
- Walk or bike with the patient each day, going as far as the patient feels comfortable.
- Use rubber exercise bands to maintain muscle tone.
- Have the patient drink water or juice after exercise.
- Patients should wear an ID bracelet with contact phone number if they are mentally stable enough to go out alone.
Some Alzheimer’s patients may not be able to move around well enough to exercise, and this can become a greater challenge as the disease progresses due to:
- Lack of endurance.
- Poor coordination.
- Sore or weak muscles.
- Depression and/or a general lack of interest.
Even patients who experience trouble walking any distance may still be able to execute exercises around the home, such as:
- Riding a stationary exercise bike.
- Tossing a lightweight rubber ball between you.