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Coping with the Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease

By Ted Holmgren, 8:00 am on June 27, 2014

As your loved one’s Alzheimer’s disease progresses, he or she will develop new symptoms, some of which can be challenging for you to manage, both physically and emotionally. To help prepare you for the journey ahead, the Scottsdale Alzheimer’s care specialists at Home Care Assistance have listed three of the more challenging symptoms associated with the progression of the disease, along with techniques to help manage them.

  1. Sundowning – This term refers to the restlessness, anxiety or fear that can occur in Alzheimer’s patients in the afternoon or evening, and can lead to wandering or pacing, general agitation or emotional outbursts. For family caregivers, these symptoms can threaten their loved one’s health and can put a strain on the caregiving relationship when the senior is resistant to help.

    What to doMake sure the home is fitted with adequate lighting, safety railings and locks on doors and windows to maximize safety and security in case of wandering, and create a list of go-to activities or conversation topics that can help distract your loved one from feelings of anxiety and fear. You may also consider outside help from a Scottsdale live-in caregiver to ensure safety 24/7.

  2. Forgetting Family and FriendsOne of the most difficult symptoms for families is when a senior forgets who loved ones are, even when present every day. While as a caregiver, you are aware that memory loss is part of the disease’s natural progression, it can be emotionally overwhelming when mom or dad looks you in the eye and doesn’t recognize you.

    What to do – When your aging loved one experiences extreme bouts of forgetfulness, it helps to remind yourself that this is a normal part of the disease and that there will be lucid days when your loved one is aware of their surroundings and of you. Take advantage of the lucid days to talk and spend quality time; it will be therapeutic for you both.

  3. Loss of Bowel and Bladder Control – As the disease progresses, your loved one will lose some or all of his or her bowel and bladder control, which can be distressing. Having no control over such a routine bodily function often reinforces the role reversal between the caregiver and their loved one which can cause a number of emotions including sadness, grief and even anger to arise.

    What to do – When bowel and bladder control becomes a problem, toilet your loved one every two hours, whether you think he or she needs it or not. The use of adult briefs to help contain incontinent episodes will help, as will the use of pads on chairs and beds. At this point, meticulous skin care of the groin, genitals and buttocks is essential to prevent skin breakdown and the development of bed sores.

There is no easy way to cope with Alzheimer’s – the progressive nature of the disease makes it one that is difficult to manage. However, becoming educated on the disease and getting the support you need from friends and family, local support groups and home health caregivers in Scottsdale, you can better cope with the disease and ensure your loved one receives the highest level of quality care.