Dec 28, 2015

6 Helpful Tips for Alzheimer's Caregivers and their Families

I can still remember vividly when I made the best decision of them all. I decided that Dotty and I would start living our lives the way we always had.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Alzheimer's caregiving is difficult under almost any circumstance. Let's face it, when Alzheimer's disease strikes most of us don't have a clue about what we should do. This included me.

At the beginning, everything I knew about Alzheimer's caregiving would have fit into a thimble.

How to Get Answers To Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia

I decided to learn everything I could about Alzheimer's disease, and I was determined to turn the experience of the typical Alzheimer's caregiver into a positive, rewarding experience.

The six tips listed below were developed over many years. It is my very strong belief that if you incorporate each of these into your life, you can have a wonderful, positive experience.

I understand that it is easier to make excuses, or to convince yourself that your Alzheimer's patient won't cooperate. Don't do this.

You will need to reach deep down inside yourself, and you will need to unleash the positive spirit within you.

I know you can do it. I hope you will try.

We reached a point where it seemed to me that my mother was starting to drop very fast. She seemed dull and detached. I can't describe in words how I felt. Any description would include the words hopeless and helpless.

I read a research report that indicated that the combination of Namenda and Aricept was more effective than a single medication for Alzheimer's disease.

I discussed this with our doctor and he agree we should try the combination therapy.

After several (around the 4 to 6 week mark) weeks I could see a change in my mother. A very positive change.

She was kinder, gentler, and easier to "deal" with.

More articles about Aricept, Namenda, and Combination Therapy.

Does the Combination of Aricept and Namenda Help Slow the Rate of Decline in Alzheimer's Patients

Aricept and Namenda from Day One -- This is my Belief

Custom Search - Aricept and Namenda


2.  Alzheimer's Disease and the Magic of Exercise -- The Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome

After doing considerable research on the Internet, I came to the conclusion that one of the simplest and easiest things I could do to "fight" Alzheimer's disease was to get both of us, Dotty and me, into a serious exercise program in the gym.

Keep in mind, Dotty was 88 and had never been in a gym in her life.

I knew I needed to exercise to reduce stress and to make sure I stayed in good health in order to care for Dotty. I also read several studies that indicated that exercise is good for the health of your brain.

I could never have imagined what was going to happen next.

Each day Dotty would refuse to go to the gym. On the way to the gym, she would curse and tell me she would not do anything once we arrived at the gym. On the way into the gym it was almost like she was crawling, and that I was taking her to prison.

After we "worked out"?

Dotty turned from a mean spirited, negative Alzheimer's patient into a completely different person who was "more there", had a smile on her face, and was more communicative.

In our case the Jekyll-Hyde syndrome was reversed. Dotty went from being mean to being nice.

We used Five Factor Fitness (FFF) for me, and a modified version of FFF for Dotty.

For us, a miracle took place. This was the first time I noticed what I call

"more there".

This lead me to believe we could do more to improve our situation.

Exercise Your Brain Or Roll the Dice?

Alzheimer's and Exercise

3. Communication and Socialization Are an Important Part of Effective Alzheimer's Caregiving

You cannot let a person suffering from Alzheimer's disease sit around and do nothing. They need the same kinds of mental stimulation and socialization that you and I need. They need to talk and they need to get out into the world. You must make every effort to keep them attached to the world. Don't use the television as your personal "baby sitter".

Let me emphasize,

Persons living with dementia need to be engaged with other human beings.

One of the biggest mistakes that Alzheimer's caregivers make is to allow a person with Alzheimer's to sit around doing nothing. A caregiver might conclude that if they are being quite and not causing a problem this must be a good thing.

Take a good hard look at the face of the person with Alzheimer's disease.

Do they have a "dull not there" look on their face? 

The Importance of Socialization in Dementia Care

Tips for Caregivers

How to Get a Dementia Patient to Do What You Want Them to Do

Sundowning is an Anxiety Syndrome in Dementia Patients


4. The Importance of Bright Light to Combat that Dull Alzheimer's Patient Look

It is likely that you will find your Alzheimer's patient sitting around in the dark or in a dimly lighted place. Some Alzheimer's patients never turn on a light; but, they do turn them off.  They will just sit there as it gets darker and darker.

Every day I took Dotty out and into bright light. If you can't go outside then try a brightly lite store like Walmart. The sun is also an important source of Vitamin D. I wrote about bright light in these articles.


5.  Eat a Mediterranean Style Diet

Both the Alzheimer's caregiver and the Alzheimer's patient need to eat well. This is imperative.

The research on the Mediterranean Diet is inconclusive in terms of whether or not it can help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease. However, the Mediterranean Diet does help to keep your heart healthy, your brain healthy, it does help lower cholesterol, and helps reduce high blood pressure.

In addition, eating Mediterranean helps you get the vitamins and nutrients you need. This diet will also help provide the energy you need to be an effective Alzheimer's caregiver. Here is the best part. Mediterranean style meals are easy to prepare.

What is a Mediterranean Style Diet?


6. Dotty and I Would Start Living Our Lives as We Always Had

One of the things I find most discouraging about Alzheimer's caregivers is when they conclude that a person living Alzheimer's or dementia can no longer do the things they use to do. Activities they engaged in during their entire lives. There is substantial research indicating that engaging in "life" makes an Alzheimer's patient "more there".

I can still remember vividly when I made the one of the best decisions of them all. I decided that Dotty and I would start living our lives the way we always had. Yes, we had some false starts. Yes, we had to make some adjustments and get creative. Here is what I learned. The more I tried to help us live our life, the more Dotty lived her life.

The more she lived her life, the happier and more cooperative she became.

I learned a great deal over the years as an Alzheimer's caregiver. I hope you can benefit from what I learned. I think about Dotty every day. She continues to teach me each day. So stick around or subscribe, there is more to come.

About Alzheimer's Disease: Caregiving | National Institute on Aging

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR).

Original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room

The goal of the Alzheimer's Reading Room is to Educate and Empower Alzheimer's caregivers, their families, and the entire Alzheimer's community.