There are many challenges that come with caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. Some of these challenges are widely known because of their portrayal in mainstream movies and television, but there are many challenges that mainstream media seldom shows. It’s vital that any caregiver of an Alzheimer’s patient be aware of these often unexplored realities of the disease so that they will be better prepared for dealing with them when the time comes.
Being the Voice of Reason
The first thing that springs to many people’s minds when they think of Alzheimer’s is memory loss. While memory loss is a significant indicator of the disease, there are many other symptoms that accompany it, including difficulty focusing, frequent confusion, and delusions. Patients not only lose their ability to retain and make new memories: they also forget the most basic information that so many people take for granted, such as their names, their environments, the date, and their loved ones. This can cause them to become agitated and fearful.
A caregiver needs to respond quickly to the patient when they become upset, assure them that they are in a safe place, and answer their questions to relieve them of their uncertainty and confusion. This can become tedious because the caregiver will find themselves answering the same questions multiple times, but it is important to keep calm so as not to compound the patient’s distress.
Being a Constant Monitor
People with Alzheimer’s are not mentally able to take care of even their most basic needs. They can forget things like eating, taking medication, and safety precautions. A caregiver will need to feed regularly the patient, administer their medication, and constantly keep their eye on them to make sure that they aren’t doing something that might result in them getting hurt. They also need to frequently check to see if the patient has lost control of their bladder and bowels, since patients often forget how to go to the bathroom.
Being a Parental Figure
Patients with Alzheimer’s can resort to child-like behavior because they have lost the concepts of accountability, responsibility, and mature communication. If they don’t want to do something such as taking their medication, they can resort to name-calling, verbal threats, hostility, physical force, and other displays of aggression. It is the responsibility of the caregiver to not give in to their childish antics. They have to remain firm and calm because the patient is incapable of doing so. It might seem inappropriate or condescending for a first-time caregiver to speak to an elderly person like a parent would a child–specially if the patient is their parent–but it’s necessary if the patient refuses to accept care.