Tips to Help Loved One with Alzheimer’s

Exploring caregiver duties and supports when caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s Disease.

By SHARE

The Boomerater™ Report, our weekly collaboration with online baby boomer resource Boomerater, this week discusses caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s Disease. We explore the role of a caregiver and financial resources to assist you.

[See New Tool to Compare Long Term Care Costs.] Here is the question from a Boomerater member: “My father, who lives with us, was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. We don’t know how to plan for his care or our increasing roles as caregivers as his condition worsens. We have heard horror stories from friends who have had relatives with this devastating disease. Where do we start?”

The Caregiver’s Role: Understanding Alzheimer’s. Caregivers must begin to look at the home in a brand new light. What hazards exist that could be easily removed? What environmental features should be brought in to foster independence while maintaining safety? And, perhaps the most complicated question is, simply, where does one begin?

An understanding of the changes that can affect the person with dementia is helpful to provide a firm foundation. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are five key changes that will occur throughout the disease process:

Judgment: forgetting how to use household appliances, etc.

Sense of time and place: getting lost on one’s own street; being unable to recognize or find areas in the home.

Behavior: the care recipient will become easily confused, suspicious or fearful.

Physical ability: the person with dementia may have trouble with balance, depending upon a walker or wheelchair to get around.

Senses: changes in vision, hearing, sensitivity to temperatures or depth perception.

[See Unforgettable TV: HBO's Alzheimer's Project.]

Clearly, these changes underscore the importance of flexibility. Some persons with dementia may experience all of these changes at once, others may never have a change in behavior, but may have a drastic drop in physical ability. Some may only experience moderate changes in these areas but these changes may occur over a longer period of time.

Taking Care of You. Caregiver burnout is often unseen, but it is all too common. It won’t matter how many non-skid rugs are placed or how many door alarms are installed if the caregiver is not able to meet the care recipient’s needs. Keep a positive outlook as you adjust your home. Remember, it is still your castle, but making certain adjustments for the care recipient may even make the lives of other household members easier, too. Involve all members of the family in this process.

There is rarely a time frame accompanying a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, so you may be in it for the long haul. The person with dementia may live at home for five years or 15 years. For many, enlisting the services of a home care provider is essential to helping accommodate the growing needs of your loved one. SearchBoomerater’s senior care directory to find home care or other related options. This information was provided by MichelleSeitzer from SeniorsforLiving.com.

Financial Needs and Resources. Another Boomerater member wrote: With the economy the way it is, more families are caring for Alzheimer's-stricken loved ones at home. With the cost for an Alzheimer's facility running $5,000 to $10,000 each month, there often is no other option. Now is the time to develop a plan for him while he can still participate. Things to consider:

Get all of the financial and legal documents together, including his will, medical and durable powers of attorney, deeds, mortgage papers, bank accounts, pension and other retirement documents, life insurance and health insurance policies, Social Security information, stock and bond certificates and any documentation about his monthly and outstanding bills.

While the costs can be high, there are resources you can turn to including Medicare, disability insurance, long-term care insurance, life insurance, Social Security Disability Income, Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. The Alzheimer’s Association describes these different financial resources, as well as just about everything else you need to know as a caregiver for a patient with Alzheimer’s. It also lists tax deductions caregivers can take for medical and nursing care, transportation, home modifications, etc.

[See Long-Term Care Insurance Getting Attention.]

You can not take care of your dad 24/7 – you will need help. Eldercare.gov is a great resource for finding quality local care providers. Also seek out local and on-line support groups. They offer invaluable advice.

Read other member tips for caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s Disease on Boomerater.

Boomerater is an online resource for baby boomers, with local directories to help you find everything from a Boston financial advisor to California independent living communities. The site also contains forums where boomers can post questions and swap first-hand experiences. If there are questions on your mind that you would like answered by other people who have faced similar situations, or you have advice of your own to share, go to Boomerater.com and participate in the forums. Say that The Best Life sent you.