Maintaining and Encouraging Independence
When you heard a family member or a good friend was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you probably tried to learn everything about Alzheimer’s and support him/her as much as you can.
While is true that an Alzheimer’s patient needs special care and assistance with daily activities, it is also true that he/she should be encouraged to live as independent as possible. It will help him/her to be in control of his life, while preventing you to burn out and get stressed.
A 2012 study featured in Psych Central shows that caregivers may deprive an Alzheimer’s patient of his independence and self-worth, even if they have good intentions and a true desire to help.
This study mentioned this problem can happened with all caregivers (the family members or support workers) who spend time assisting a sufferer with Alzheimer’s. The caregiver will try to do everything to help the patient, and complete tasks that could easily be performed by the patient himself.
The study describes the story of a wife who always took care of her husband with Alzheimer’s and always completed various tasks for him. One day she went with her husband to a nursing home and saw her husband was quite capable of performing many tasks she thought he wasn’t able to do.
Look for Support
Companies like CCAC (Community Care Access Centre) provide support for patients with Alzheimer’s. A case manager (usually a nurse or other health professional) regularly assesses the status of a patient. The case manager will create a treatment plan involving home support workers (who would visit and provide bathing, dressing assistance or respite care for caregivers), physiotherapists (to create a suitable stretching/exercise program), occupational therapist (to assess the need for various assistive devices), social worker, and more.
Understanding How Much Help Someone with Alzheimer’s Needs
Both family members and professional caregivers should understand very well the limitations of the patient by reading the notes and talking to the physiotherapist and the case manager.
If individuals with Alzheimer’s can do some cooking, they should be encouraged to do some (even if the tasks should be broken down in smaller tasks to make them easier).
If the patient can dress or undress, the caregiver should just assist with these activities, rather than completing them while the patient is passively waiting for help.
Tools to Maintain Independence
Helpful tools such as a calendar and clock (or watch) should be placed in the room, and the patient should be encouraged to follow them and get oriented in time. A journal can also help one keep track of daily activities, thoughts and feelings. Use brain exercises such as puzzles or other games to keep the mind active.
In the Nursing Home
As time progresses, the disease will also progress. Cognitive function may significantly decline and the need for nursing care will be considered. As a family member, you can visit your loved one in this nursing home and talk to the caregivers to allow him to be as independent as he can, based on the current status.