With Alzheimer’s affecting an estimated 47* million people worldwide, out of which about 4 million are in India, this mental illness is more powerful and widespread than we think.
Being devoid of any physical symptoms and often ignored as being age-related changes in behaviour, Alzheimer’s cases worldwide are likely to cross 131 million by 2050, as per the experts.
With such alarming facts, it is important to take action to spread awareness about Alzheimer’s and not let the elderly suffer. But what if you have a parent or grand-parent at home who is suffering from this grave disease?
How does this thing unfold? Well, before you realize, the elderly person may start demanding care and attention to continue living with dignity when their brain starts functioning in a different manner. Looking after them, responding to their behavioural changes, lifestyle management and communicating with those suffering from this silent mental illness requires love, patience, skills and a lot of support to deliver the best quality care.
How to help an elderly who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease?
1. Managing Communication Changes
Those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease have a hard time expressing themselves or even understanding what others say. Since they are over-sensitive to the tone and loudness of voices of others, the person caring for them must reassure them time and again and remain loving and caring.
2. Addressing Sleep Problems in Elderly
People with Alzheimer’s either find it difficult to go to bed or tend to sleep a lot. They may even wake up many times during the night. Exercising daily will help the person relax mentally. The caregiver must ensure the person gets enough rest during the night and set a routine time for going to bed every day. Limit their caffeine intake and create a relaxing bedroom ambience by using mild lighting and colours.
In the later stages of Alzheimer’s, the following symptoms may start showing in varying degrees:
1. Personality and Behavioral Changes
Some common behavioural patterns in people with Alzheimer’s, as it progresses, may include being too agitated, worried and angry. They may act depressed and disinterested in everything around, start hitting the caregiver or others around, imagining things that aren’t real and even wandering away from home. They stop caring about their looks, avoid taking bath and even prefer wearing the same clothes every day. Use humour as and when possible to lighten the situation.
2. Hallucinations, Delusions and Paranoia
Various complex changes occurring in the brains of people in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s leading to acute hallucinations (hearing, seeing, feeling or smelling things that are not really there), delusions (false beliefs) and paranoia (a type of delusion which makes them believe the other person is mean, lying, or unfair). It is best not to argue with the person about what they see or feel and comfort them instead if they are afraid. Take them for a quiet walk. Prevent exposure to violence in audio or video forms as they tend to believe the same is happening in front of them. Use gentle touching or hugging to show you care and let them know they are safe; distract them with happy things or memories.
Alzheimer’s care right in the comfort of your home
Constantly fighting a battle with their brain and dealing with overflowing emotions can be rather challenging for people with Alzheimer’s. A hospital’s closed environs may trigger withdrawal tendencies which can make them agitated and aggressive, altogether leading to the denial of treatment.
This is where home healthcare acts as a saviour both for the patient as well as the caregiver. Being in the comfort of their home and around family members makes the patients feel protected.
The patient responds better to the care and treatment being delivered and the caregiver to feels reassured of the quality and authenticity of medical help. The assistance of professionally trained nurses during this stage, for activities of daily living, acts as a source of tremendous strength for the Alzheimer’s patient as well as their family.
Research continues worldwide to help with the earliest diagnosis of this disease, and the quest for a cure pushes on. Till then, the role of caregivers assumes paramount importance in the life of an Alzheimer’s patient. Let us honour this position, and give our loved ones all our support!
*Source: World Alzheimer’s Report, 2016