Alzheimer's disease is a progressive and irreversible brain disorder that gradually destroys a person's memory and thinking skills and, eventually, their ability to perform routine day-to-day tasks. While estimates vary, some research suggests close to 5.5 million Americans 65 or older are suffering from dementia secondary to Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's is considered a costly disease with a raw annual expense of more than $270 billion. However, the toll it takes on patients, caregivers, and medical home care professionals is incalculable. An estimated 16.1 million unpaid caregivers are selflessly looking after loved ones with Alzheimer's.
Why Patients with Alzheimer's Require Specialized Care
Symptoms exhibited by patients with Alzheimer's are severe and unlike any other. The condition can affect every aspect of a patient's life, making personalized and specialized care even more crucial. Each case of Alzheimer's is unique to the individual experiencing it. However, below are a few conditions most patients experience:
- Drastic changes in behavior or mood
- General loss of cognitive thinking and memory
- General confusion and disorientation
- Loss of ability to hold conversations
- Difficulty swallowing or walking
- Inability to recognize time, places, or people
- Inability to participate in activities including personal care
Challenges Faced By Alzheimer's Caregivers
Symptoms of Alzheimer's can be very challenging to manage. In some cases, it requires taking caregiving to a whole new level. While caregivers looking after Alzheimer's patients face a lot of challenges, below are some of the most crucial:
Aside from physical support, caregivers also need to provide emotional support. This involves dealing with a patient's anxiety and helping them come to terms with their condition. Caregivers also need to ease the patient's anxiety and stay calm when they are upset.
Caregivers are also required to be closely involved with most aspects of the patient's care. This includes coordinating with the medical teams, their loved ones, and friends. Caregivers are also expected to be well aware of any progress or changes in the patient's condition.
It is crucial for Alzheimer's patients to be aware of all there is to know about the condition. Getting educated about the condition can also help caregivers plan and look ahead to be well prepared for any situation.
Caregivers are also expected to be very knowledgeable when it comes to the outcomes and symptoms of the condition and the safety protocols they need to follow. In the same manner, they need to be aware of the possible impact of the disease on caregivers as well.
Caregivers need to develop a knack for assessing situations related to Alzheimer's patients. They need to be aware of even the slightest changes in the senior's symptoms and behavior and make judgment calls when necessary.
In other words, caregivers of patients with Alzheimer's need to adapt to any situation quickly. They also need to determine new or worsening problems as they arise.
Caregivers looking after patients with Alzheimer's need to take special care of themselves to look after their patients accordingly. Navigating life with a dementia patient can be extremely hard, especially when they say hurtful things or engage in irrational behavior.
Understandably, dealing with a patient's erratic moods and behavior can be physically exhausting and mentally draining. That said, the importance of practicing excellent self-care cannot be overstated. Caregivers of Alzheimer's patients also need to practice self-care, so they don't suffer from burnout.
Some of the most common signs of burnout include:
- Feeling helpless or guilty
- Losing pleasure or interest in things you used to like, such as socializing or exercising
- Gaining or losing too much weight
- Sleeping less or more than usual
- Feeling depleted
Looking after a patient with Alzheimer's disease can be extremely challenging. That said, caregivers need to practice flexibility, patience, and self-care to continue to provide the best care possible for their patients.
About the Author
Sarah Keller is the Content Marketing Strategist of A To Z Home Care, a team of professional home care providers based in Phoenix, Arizona that specializes in long-term care for your loved ones. She enjoys riding horses and camping with her friends and family in her spare time.
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