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Living with Alzheimer’s disease

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For a person suffering from Alzheimer’s, as well as his or her loved ones, living with the disease every day can present many challenges. But in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, a number of simple strategies can make day-to-day life easier. Why not take advantage of them?

Vivre avec la maladie d’Alzheimer au quotidien

Every day, we all automatically attend to a multitude of activities and chores, sometimes without even realizing it. But for someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, simple tasks can become surprisingly hard. A few useful strategies can make a big difference in the lives of both the patient and his or her caregivers.

Tips for individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the person is fully aware that the disease will eventually lead to major changes in his or her life, and in the lives of family members and friends. At that stage, only minimal help may be required. The following suggestions can help you better confront this new reality and maintain both autonomy and quality of life.

If you live alone:

  • Do not isolate yourself. Take advantage of the presence and support of your family and friends.
  • Make sure you get adequate help for certain chores (ex: house cleaning, preparing meals, transportation, banking, etc.). Accept the help that is offered to you.
  • Display emergency numbers near your telephone.
  • Use a calendar or an agenda to write down your appointments and activities, and always keep it in the same place.
  • Use notes, labels, a timer and a medication organizer if you are experiencing memory loss.
  • Keep your surroundings neat and clean; this will make it easier to find items you’re looking for and will also reduce the risk of falling.
  • Give an extra set of house keys to a family member, friend or neighbour.
  • Pick tasks according to your abilities and only do one at a time.
  • If you worry about getting lost, join the MedicAlert® Safely Home® program.
  • Do not hesitate to express your feelings to your loved ones and your doctor. Choose people whom you trust to confide in.
  • If you are in the work force, discuss your abilities with your superior and plan for the next few months together.
  • Stay active! Exercise can do you good.
  • Try to maintain a healthy diet.
  • Stay socially active and keep up with your favourite pastimes.
  • Join a support group.

Advice for loved ones and caregivers

An Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis can be hard on the patient’s loved ones. Every day represents a new challenge as you learn the best way to support the patient, whose abilities are diminishing and whose behaviour is changing. It is also imperative that you take care of yourself throughout the process.

In the early stages of the disease, it is important to reinforce a sense of self-reliance in a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s. You can help the person, but remember to not do everything for him or her. This attitude could not only diminish the person’s abilities, but also rob him or her of self-confidence, which, on a psychological level, is an unwanted consequence. It goes without saying that this could require patience on your part since the person’s speed will not necessarily be the same as yours. Here are some additional suggestions that could potentially help you with your day:

  • Try to keep your routine simple. Break down more complex tasks into steps. That way, your loved one will know what to expect.
  • Don’t be condescending or impatient with the person. Be gentle and tolerant.
  • Don’t correct or argue with a person who is forgetful or who says things that may not be true.
  • Speak a bit more slowly to the person, especially on the phone.
  • Ask for his or her opinion, or for what he or she wants. The person will feel involved. Don’t assume that you already know or that your opinion is more valuable.
  • Take care of your health. People who support and care for a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s can sometimes forget about themselves. Being well rested and in good shape will help you be the best caregiver you can be.
  • If you are feeling tired, anxious or overwhelmed, seek professional help. Exhaustion will not help you or anyone else.
  • Find out more about the disease and its various facets. You’ll be better equipped to offer your help in an effective way.

In conclusion, it is important to mention that this document is only a brief overview of advice and tips that can make daily life easier for a person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and for his or her caregivers. You’ll find a wide array of relevant information on the web site of the Alzheimer Society of Canada and its local offices. We highly recommend you visit this site if you wish to obtain more detailed information on how to manage Alzheimer’s disease on a day-to-day basis. You can find the Society’s site at the following address: www.alzheimer.ca

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