Interview with an Alzheimer’s Caregiver
How to Care for Patients with Alzheimer’s
Question: What are some of the tasks you must perform in taking care of Alzheimer’s patients?
April: With an Alzheimer’s patient, it’s best to try to get them into a routine. So, before my client wakes, I will have already prepared and put everything in place because you never know what disposition she may be in. You must always remember that, with Alzheimer’s, a patient’s mood can change suddenly and unexpectedly. I always take out her medications for the day and double check to make sure I have the amount of meds her prescription requires. I then prepare her choice of beverage and I already have in mind what meals I am going to prepare for her. I lay out her clothes and put them in the area where I will dress her. I try to wake her up in the same way every day, using the same words and at the same time
Question: How do you get your client to perform the tasks?
April: It helps to have a good sense of humor. I use laughter and a kind voice. You have to be diplomatic. I appeal to something she likes. For example, my client loves coffee. So I get her out of bed by asking, “are you ready for your coffee?” Depending on her response, I can tell if she going to cooperate. Once she’s up, I always tell her what we are going to do next. For instance, to get her to go the bathroom, I turn on the bathroom light. So when she sits up, I point out where we’re going. I may have to repeat it several times to stimulate her desire to go. Once up, I count with her, out loud, each step. It helps if she counts along with me. It keeps her focus on the task at hand. If I don’t hear her counting, I may ask her what number we are on then repeat the number and kindly ask her to say it with me.
To get her to go outside in the backyard, I give her a flower. She loves flowers.
Never try to force your client to do something they don’t want to do."
Question: What is the most important thing you should remember?
April: I guess I would say having empathy is one of the important things. I always think, if I was in that situation, how would I want someone to treat me? Whatever negative things they may say or do, don’t take it personally. Remember that they often feel frustrated by their condition which may sometimes cause them to act unkind. But you should never be unkind to them. It’s important that you allow them to keep their dignity by being respectful. Displaying good manners will help you accomplish this—you know, being courteous and saying “please” and “thank you.”
Stimulating your client's memory
Question: How do you get your client to remember?
April: Whatever memories they have, you can help them build on them. I remind my client about her family and regularly say the names of her husband and children. I always remind her when her children are coming for a visit, which usually makes her smile. I often view family photos with her and certain photos will bring back memories. She may tell me a story about one of her children. I make it a point to remember that story and relay it back to her. Often times, she has forgotten the story, but I’ll say “remember when you told me your son or daughter did this.” Even though she may no longer remember the incident, she still has emotions and feelings that can bring a positive response and a smile to her face when I recall it to her.
Alzheimer Facts: Definition --Acute dementia that causes decline in cognitive abilities and gradually worsens.
- Deaths from Alzheimer's increased by 39 percent from 2000 through 2010 in the United States.
- It is the sixth leading cause of death in the US and the fifth leading cause among people aged 65 years and over.
- Age range of individuals who are most likely to get the disease is 60 years and up. Starting at age 65, the risk of developing the disease doubles every five years.
- Over five million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s. By 2050, the number will double due to the aging of the population.
- According to the Center for Disease Control, death due to Alzheimer’s is the highest among women, particularly white women. In 2010, the death rate for whites with Alzheimer’s was 26 percent higher than the death rate among blacks and Hispanics. Hispanics have the lowest death rate.
Graphic of Mortality Rates by Race
The Seven Stages of Alzheimer's
Stage 1: No cognitive Impairment
Stage 2: Very Mild cognitive decline
Stage 3: Mild cognitive decline
Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline
Stage 5: Moderately severe cognitive decline
Stage 6: Severe cognitive decline
Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline
Questions: What stage of the disease was your client in?
April: Well, at first my client was more active and she could recognize most of her family and friends. She used a walker to get around. She could travel by bus or car to her doctor’s appointments. But Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. Her memory loss got worst which required a change in her medications. Gradually, I begin to see her go from a person who was able to determine for herself what she wanted to do and when she wanted to do it, to a person who couldn’t make simple decisions. I would ask her if she was hungry and she would say she didn’t know, what do you think? So, I would say she went from a person with Stage 4 Alzheimer’s to Stage 5—moderate memory loss to moderately severe memory loss.
Walking is essential exercise for Alzheimer's patients
Question: What advice would you give beginning caretakers of Alzheimer’s patients?
April: You will be successful if your client knows you have their best interest at heart. So, you must gain their trust. If they are responsive to your guidance and come to rely on you, you know they trust you. The way you get them to trust you depends on how you treat them. You must be patient and kind. Alzheimer’s can be a very humiliating disease. Your client will likely lose their ability to eat, dress and bathe themselves, and use the toilet. You will have to assist them. It is important that they maintain their dignity. Displaying the proper respect is the key.