Living with Alzheimers
Early diagnosis of Alzheimer disease is important for caregivers and the person affected by the disease. Alzheimer’s disease affects both the person living with the disease and his/her caregiver. An understanding of the disease and its effects on caregivers and the person living with the disease is important as the disease progresses.
The Caregivers’ Perspective:
There are times when we see signs of cognitive impairment of a loved one which we ignore and think the behaviour is a normal part of ageing. It is not. There is no manual for caregivers on how to take care of a person living with Alzheimer’s disease, however, the following tips may be useful:
- Patience – The need for support from a caregiver often starts early in the course of dementia, intensifies as the illness progresses over time, and continues until death. This can be both physically and psychologically taxing.
- Sundowning- learning how to cope with the changes in behaviour late afternoon or in the evening where they get agitated restless irritable or confused. Occasionally they will keep awake for hours during the night which means carers too will lose rest.
- Safe environment- with memory loss it is important to keep the environment safe, which sometimes mean changing locks or locking away toxic household cleaners for fear that one’s loved one will mistake e.g. dishwashing liquid for juice.
- Vigilance- safety is important and being observant and keeping a watchful eye on the person living with the disease is important. It means exercising patience. Too often many persons wander off.
- Support groups- meeting with other caregivers can be helpful and it is a time for respite where one can express their feelings having to deal with the responsibility of caring for his loved one.
The Persons living with Alzheimer’s disease Perspective:
There are occasions when there are signs of anger and frustration not remembering one’s own address or the name of one’s spouse or how to make a cup of tea or misplacing things which create anxiety. These are some of the things persons with the disease exhibit. How one handles the diagnosis, then trying to cope as the disease progress which leads to loss of independence is seen through the eyes of the person living with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Preparedness- an early diagnosis of the disease is important as it helps to the person with Alzheimer’s to plan ahead while they are still able to make important decisions on their care and support needs and on financial and legal matters. It also helps them and their families to receive practical information, advice and guidance as they face new challenges.
- Ability to cope- too often there is the perception that on the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease it means the person so diagnosed is incapable of functioning as a normal human being. Persons with early onset dementia can function and continue their daily tasks; some even continue in their jobs. The frustration is when persons look at them strangely almost with pity and disbelief that one can still be working despite the disease treating one as if he is lying about the diagnosis.
- Mood swings: crying on occasions feeling lost and confused not understanding what is happening because of the changes occurring in one’s behaviour.
- Loss of identity- the person may feel as if he/she does not belong because of the diagnosis. Friendships are lost because persons stay away and there is a feeling of loneliness.
- Discrimination- there are instances when persons living with the early onset of the disease are discriminated against even in their jobs where they are still functional.
- Loss of independence- where now children and possible grandchildren become carers.