Learning that one of your parents has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's can be emotionally devastating. You are not only worried about your parent's health and happiness, but also about the impact this condition will have on your relationship. With more than five million people in the U.S. facing Alzheimer's, you and your family are not alone, and there are resources available for you. Here are five effective ways to navigate this difficult time:
Find Alzheimer's Care in Your Area
Alzheimer's is a complicated condition that requires more specialized care than you can offer on your own. As the disease progresses, it can be dangerous for your parent to live alone, and overwhelming for them to live with you. Finding the right retirement home with an Alzheimer's focus is the most important thing you can do for your parent. You will gain great peace of mind knowing your parent is completely safe and being looked after by professionals and experts.
Join a Support Group
It's important not to neglect self-care during this challenging time. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to join a support group for family members whose loved ones have Alzheimer's. In the support group you will be able to talk to people facing similar situations, vent about your emotions in a productive way, and share coping strategies with each other. Attending support group meetings will help you feel less isolated and afraid, which will make it easier for you to truly be there for your parent.
Create a Care Notebook
There can be a lot to keep track of when it comes to caring for your parent with Alzheimer's. A good way to stay organized is to create a care notebook. This is where you can list things like doctor's appointments you drive your parent to, medication they take, their emergency and medical contacts, etc. You can also keep a running list of activities they enjoy. A great option is a day planner and notebook combination, so that you can schedule things, make lists, and glance at the notebook each day to see what, if anything, you need to do for your parent that day.
Stick to a Routine
Alzheimer's can be overwhelming and confusing for your parent, and anything you can do to provide consistency and reliability will help them feel more grounded and calm. Ideally, you will be able to create and stick to a routine. For example, it's a good idea to visit them on the same days and at around the same time each week. The same idea applies to things like phone calls, outings, and doctor's appointments. Be sure to communicate this idea to the rest of your family in order to get them on board.
Create a Quiet, Calm Environment
Alzheimer's patients can get easily distracted and confused when there is too much stimuli. When you visit your parent, create a soothing and quiet environment before you engage in activities like arts and crafts or reading to them. Turn off the TV, make sure the light is soft instead of harsh, and consider playing soothing classical music at a low volume in the background.
Encourage your other family members and other visitors to do the same. Your parent will more easily be able to focus on what you're saying and doing if there isn't a ton of background noise or activity, and they will be less likely to become agitated.
By following these tips, you will better be able to care for your loved one with Alzheimer's, while taking good care of yourself at the same time.