In the early stage of Alzheimer’s, most people are usually able to function independently. They can still drive, take part in social activities, socialize and even work. The role of the caregiver at this stage, however, is still an important one: they provide support and companionship, and help plan for the future.
Your role as a caregiver
A diagnosis of early stage Alzheimer’s disease affects the lives of family members, partners and friends of those suffering from the disease as well. It can have a profound, life-changing effect.
The role of caregiver often comes unexpectedly to a member of the family, usually a spouse or a child before they’re able to turn to a professional personal care assistant for help. As a caregiver you may find yourself having many questions and having many new responsibilities. There is a lot of information online, but there is also so little time to learn about the changes that your elderly parent or spouse is going through. Sometimes, it may all feel too overwhelming and the future may seem bleak. But there are people who can help you through the process of taking care of your loved one, and there are many resources you can tap into to support the person living with dementia.
First of all, you need to understand that these questions and feelings are normal.
An early diagnosis gives plenty of time to you and the person with dementia to accept and prepare for the challenges of the future. You will have the time to make decisions about late-life care and put all affairs in order, including legal, financial, and long-term care planning. Your loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia can take advantage of available treatments, participation in clinical trials and you both can benefit from local resources and support services. The multitude of options and all these benefits can reduce anxiety about the unknown and lead to better outcomes for everyone involved.
The role of a caregiver is not just limited to spouses, partners or close family members. Caregivers may include “families of choice” such as friends, neighbors or long-distance relatives. Or you can hire a professional live-in assistant. Whatever the case, it may be difficult to determine the exact level of assistance needed without direct observation in the initial stages of Alzheimer’s. Whenever possible, try to gather as much information from your GP and any local support groups before making any long-term care decisions.
Every person experiences the early stage of dementia differently, but it is common that a person in the early-stage may need cues and reminders to remember better. One of the responsibilities of a caregiver is to take the initiative to determine how they may be able to help. For example, a person with dementia often needs assistance with:
• Remembering words or names
• Recalling familiar places or people
• Managing money
• Keeping track of medications and appointments
• Planning or organizing
• Grooming and bathing
Helping the person with dementia live well
People with Alzheimer’s want to maintain their quality of life for as long as possible. The ability to remain healthy, active, engaged and independent are consistent goals identified by newly diagnosed individuals. Caregivers play an important role in helping the person with dementia achieve them.
Here are a few ways to help a person in early stages of Alzheimer’s stay healthy for as long as possible:
• Encouraging physical activities. Based on results of some studies, exercise or regular physical activity may play a role in living better with the disease. Choose activities they enjoy and can do with ease.
• Preparing meals that maintain a balanced diet and are low in fat and high in vegetables.
• Creating a daily routine which promotes quality sleep and engagement with others.
• Identifying situations which may be too stressful for the person with dementia.
• Working together to find what helps the person relax.