Community Blog

Primary Responsibilities of Caregivers to Early-Stage Alzheimer’s & Dementia Patients

By Debbie Humphrey

I have the utmost respect for caregivers to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. The challenges they face each day require compassion, strength of character, high levels of skill, and lots of patience. I know from personal experience that caring for individuals experiencing stages of mental decline is emotionally and mentally draining.

I am fortunate to employ caregivers who have received specialized training to properly care and communicate with those suffering with dementia. I am proud that many are certified as Alzheimer’s caregivers through our partnership with the National Certification Board for Alzheimer’s Care [NCBAC].

There are escalating stages to these terrible mental conditions, and each stage presents its own unique challenges.

Caregivers to early-stage Alzheimer’s & dementia patients provide support, companionship, and so much more. The sufferer typically still drives, shops, cooks, cleans, manages their personal hygiene, and participates in social activities. This person usually doesn’t recognize symptoms of the disease; they simply think they’re becoming more forgetful with age. Managing finances becomes more challenging in the early stages, too, which can last for years.

The Alzheimer’s Association outlines additional ways care partners assist persons suffering from these dreadful conditions:

  1. Safety is the first priority. Making sure a person with dementia is safe in their surroundings and in performing daily activities is crucial.
  1. Find ways to avoid stressful situations. If a caregiver knows that going to the grocery is stressful and frustrating for the person in their charge, going to the grocery for them or helping to organize a menu and shopping list can help reduce stress.
  1. Stay positive about present outcomes. If a care partner senses frustration during a task, identify the source of the frustration and gently intervene to minimize the source of the agitation, focusing on the here and now and not what may happen in the future.
  1. Create a signal that help is needed. If the person with Alzheimer’s forgets names or cannot come up with the right words, a wink, nod or help-phrase can signal the person is open to receive your help.
  1. Discuss what’s happening with the dementia patient. It doesn’t hurt to ask the person how you can help or ease their frustration. Talk to them about what their experiencing and develop a plan to help, but never argue or provoke an argument with them.
  1. Spend time together in the present. Find activities to enjoy together and discuss expectations of the kind of support a care partner will be expected to provide.
  1. Maximize their independence for as long as possible. Since every dementia patient is different, it is not a cookie-cutter process. To help them remain independent, a care partner may also assist with:
  • Keeping appointments
  • Remembering words or names
  • Recalling familiar places or people
  • Managing money
  • Keeping track of medications
  • Planning or organizing
  • Transportation
  1. Maintain emotional strength, even when it’s most difficult. Caregivers experience an emotional roller coaster when caring for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s vital to care for yourself and understand your own emotions through this difficult ride, to offer the person the best quality of life possible.
  1. Help the person with dementia live a good life. In the early stages, it’s important to keep them active and engaged. There will come a time when that becomes impossible, so in the present, care partners play a vital role in keeping them healthy by:
  • Encouraging physical activities you both enjoy like walking or other forms of exercising promotes good physical and mental health.
  • Preparing balanced meals with lots of veggies and a reduced fat content is recommended.
  • Creating a daily routine can promote quality sleep and social engagement with others.
  • Identifying and reducing stressful situations for the person with dementia also helps those providing care.
  • Working together to find what helps the person relax is a benefit to everyone involved.

Families can always reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association at 727-578-2558, or the 24-hour Helpline at 800-772-8672, for answers to questions about warning signs and how care partners can best assist persons with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The Helpline is open year-round.

I am here to help, too! Home Helpers® is available to provide non-medical assistance to people suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, along with respite care for family members. I am happy to offer a FREE consultation, and whatever resources at my disposal, to assist with your unique needs and those of your loved one.

Home Helpers® is honored to have received Provider of Choice 2017, 2018 & 2019 awards from Home Care Pulse. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠  727.942.2539

Source:  Alzheimer’s Association