July 24, 2014
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Alzheimer's disease: caregiver tips

If you are taking care of someone with Alzheimer's disease, you'll need to know about how to keep that person and their environment safe, how to deal with behavioural issues such as delusions, and how to make sure you take care of yourself as well.

Safety in the home

Review the home environment for possible safety hazards. Ensure that a working smoke detector is installed and checked regularly. Place support bars in bathtubs or shower stalls. Lock away sharp objects and dangerous household chemicals.

Alcohol

Even small amounts of alcohol can aggravate the confusion of someone with Alzheimer's disease. Suggest a low-alcohol or, better yet, non-alcoholic alternative. If necessary, hide or remove alcohol from the home.

Medications

Someone who is forgetful or confused may be taking too little or too much of an important medication. Remove all out-of-date or unnecessary medications from the home. Ask your pharmacist for a special "dosette" or "bubble pack" to help organize medications. If necessary, seek permission to supervise all medications to ensure they are taken in the proper amounts.

Driving

For anyone who has Alzheimer's disease, it will eventually become unsafe to drive. This affects their own safety as well as the safety of others. Their driving ability needs to be carefully monitored with the assistance of your doctor. Aside from accidents, obvious warning signs that a person's driving abilities are deteriorating include "near-misses," traffic violations, getting lost, and slow response times.

Delusions

Individuals with Alzheimer's disease may become falsely convinced that their possessions have been stolen. These false beliefs, known as "delusions," may lead a person with Alzheimer's to hide his or her possessions in an unusual location, which is then forgotten. When these items cannot be found, this may aggravate the belief of theft that then leads to further hiding of objects. To help with delusions, offer reassurance but do not argue. Try to distract with another activity and look for potential causes (e.g., vision problems, changes in the environment).

Take care of yourself too

Caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease is hard work, physically and emotionally. Be sure that you develop coping strategies that help you. Ask for help from friends and family and make sure you have time for yourself. Support groups for caregivers are also helpful for many people.

Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team


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