Being a caregiver is a full time job, and for some, it’s a responsibility in addition to a part or full time job outside the home. This is no easy task. Many people work long hours, have demanding jobs, skip lunch, and stay late. Go home. Repeat.
For some caregivers, the middle-stage of Alzheimer’s Disease is considered the most difficult. Your loved one’s memory is slowly starting to fade, and he/she is starting to forget things like people’s names or a home address. Or perhaps, when you try to assist your loved one in basic tasks, he/she may recoil angrily, saying that it’s under control.
As the disease progresses, you may find yourself feeling helpless and at a loss when dealing with an individual with middle-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Here are some tips from AFC’s social work team on how to handle the moderate stage of dementia.
In middle-stage Alzheimer’s and dementia, damage occurs in the parts of the brain that controls reasoning, decision making, and sensory processes. Individuals will likely experience more rapid memory loss and the inability to perform basic routines. One way to help your loved one is to give gentle reminders throughout the day. Use very specific phrases and words to help him/her understand more easily. Instead of asking, “Do you have to go?” ask, “Do you have to use the restroom?” so that it’s easier to decipher the question. This formula can also be used to remind the individual of the names of loved ones. Instead of saying, “Jack is here,” perhaps rephrase it to: “Your grandson, Jack, is here.”
Help Calm Sundowning
Roughly 20% of Alzheimer’s individuals experience increased agitation or restlessness at night. Referred to as “sundowning,” these late-in-day behavioral problems can disturb the sleep cycle. Medical professionals haven’t been able to explain the exact cause of sundowning but have come up with a few tips to help combat the problem.
It’s best to keep your loved one as active as possible during the day. Individuals who rest all day are more likely to be awake at night. Encourage more “challenging activities” such as going to a doctor’s appointment or even bathing. We also suggest incorporating some simple exercises earlier in the day.
When it is time for bed, make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature with the proper safety precautions in place such as night lights and window locks.
Create Meaningful Activities
Besides providing a relaxing feeling, activities can reduce wandering and agitation. “Meaningful activities” doesn’t necessarily mean creating new things to do every day. It simply means doing something that will inspire self-confidence in your loved one. You can prepare dinner together, do arts & crafts, or even just go for a walk. No matter how simple the activity, it can encourage your loved one to express themselves through different means whether it’s through art or an old hobby he/she used to love.
Build Your Support System
One important thing to remember is: it’s okay to ask for help. Caregiving is a very exhaustive job, both physically and mentally. It may be more manageable to take care of an individual with early-stage Alzheimer’s, but once the progression happens, it will become more difficult. Unless they have personally dealt with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, family and friends may find it hard to understand what you’re going through. Keep them updated on your loved one’s daily routines. The more you explain his/her habits, the better your family and friends will understand.
If you do need to reach out for help with an errand or chore, be very specific in what you need. Do you need someone to drive your loved one to an appointment? Or perhaps, you want an item picked up for his/her meal. Lay out the exact request step-by-step with advanced notice.
And if someone expresses reluctance to help, don’t take it personally. Not many people have dealt with dementia before and they may be afraid that they’ll fall short of your expectations. Take the time to discuss the situation and see if there is a way to compromise. There is no “right way” to approach dementia care, only the best way in the current moment.
This post was written in collaboration with AFC’s social worker team.