Worsening dementia symptoms can affect your loved one’s safety. As a caregiver, you may wonder how best to handle potentially contentious situations like whether your loved one should continue driving.
“I think it comes back to respect and dignity,” says Rhonda Brown, Director of 3D Community Health: Body.Mind. Spirit and Director of The Healing Place. “With driving, for example, consider what it means to lose a driver’s license and no longer be able to go when and where we want to.”
Plan ahead to avoid feeling caught
off guard when changes are necessary. Periodically evaluate your loved
one’s fitness to drive and discuss any concerns with his or her doctor. An alternative transportation plan should be in place before you take someone’s keys away, so your loved one can still be social.
Also, take steps to safeguard your loved one and prevent wandering:
• Limit access—Add locks to cabinets and drawers that contain potentially dangerous kitchen implements or toxic household products, such as cleaning solutions, alcohol, and power tools.
• Secure exits—Install door alarms to alert you if your loved one gets up at night or leaves the building.
• Hide car keys—Your loved one may forget that he or she no longer drives and take your keys—and your car—
if they are easily accessible.
LOVE YOUR mother and enjoy spending time with her more than anything. When her doctor recommends she no longer live alone because of her Alzheimer’s disease progression, you
naturally volunteer your extra bedroom. But how do you navigate being not just a child, but a caregiver as well?
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease begins and ends with being patient.
“Lend your loved one the same consideration and dignity you would hope be extended to you,” says Rhonda Brown, Director of
3D Community Health: Body.Mind.Spirit and Director of The Healing Place. “Talk to them in shorter sentences, and ask direct questions rather than open-ended ones to make it easier for them to comprehend and answer.”
Encourage your loved one to stick to a daily routine, including getting up and showering, getting dressed, and being physically active. Familiar activities can help decrease the severity of symptoms.
MAKING THE CALL
No matter how much you care for your loved one, you are only one person. There will likely come a time when he or she requires more help than you can provide. Checking into assisted living options can be difficult, but doing so before they’re needed gives you somewhere to turn. Local resources can help with related decisions, such as what kind of assisted living facility would be best for your loved one or ways to pay for that level of care.
“Memory care specialists at the Eau Claire Aging & Disability Resource Center can help with decisions,” Brown says. “The Department of Health and Human Services can provide advice and economic assistance for the financial side.”
Finally, Brown stresses the importance of self-care for caregivers. “Don’t hesitate to find respite care,” Brown says. “When you
know your loved one is taken care of and feels comfortable, you can take the time to do things you love, whether that’s going out, having coffee with a friend you can confide in, or just taking a little quiet time for yourself.”
For creative tips and inspiration when caring for people with dementia, join us on October 3 for an event in
the 3D Community Health: Body.Mind.Spirit series: DEMENTIA CARE—Inspiring the Caregiver’s Soul.
For more information, visit sacredhearteauclaire.org/events-classes.
People with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia sometimes experience confusion in the late afternoon and evening, a condition called Sundowners syndrome. Not everyone experiences Sundowners the same way—for some people, day and night flip. Others show symptoms for only
a couple of hours. Common symptoms include sudden increased energy, mood swings, delusions, restlessness, and disorientation. Common triggers may include fatigue, illness, or disruption of a person’s routine.
Living With an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
An early dementia or Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, or even a family history of the disease, can be difficult to live with. You may feel that it is hanging over everything you do.
“Healthy living habits may help deter the progression of dementia,” says Kathy Briggs, Office Facilitator and Lifeline Coordinator at HSHS St. Joseph’s Home Care. “These habits include exercising several times a week, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol consumption, reducing stress, and challenging the brain.”
Many Alzheimer’s disease or dementia symptoms develop gradually over an extended period, making them hard to identify. If you know you are at risk, learn the warning signs.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:
• Increased confusion
• Personality or behavioral changes
• Difficulty concentrating or focusing
• Repeating the same stories or asking the same questions
• Struggling with familiar tasks like cooking, cleaning, or paying bills
• Neglecting self-care
If multiple symptoms are present, discuss them with a doctor. An early diagnosis leads to early treatment, which can slow disease progression.
“You’re not alone,” Briggs says. “Know your resources. In our area this includes the Aging
& Disability Resource Centers of Eau Claire and Chippewa counties, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the Chippewa County Dementia Coalition.”