If someone you love has been diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, you may think they don’t need your help yet. They may only miss an appointment here and there and they’re probably still driving, working and socializing with friends. But during this life-changing time, your loved one still needs your support.
Below are some tips on how to be a care partner until you have to become a caregiver:
A shoulder to lean on
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can leave a person feeling embarrassed, anxious and even isolated. And as the symptoms start to increase, frustration can join those other emotions. Allow your loved one to express their feelings and talk through these feelings together. Make sure they continue participating in activities they enjoy and seeing friends who are supportive. Most importantly, encourage them to find a support group so they don’t feel so alone in their challenges.
Reminders and cues
If they’re having trouble remembering important tasks like taking medications or doctors’ appointments, set up automatic reminders or calendars on their phone or computer to aid their flagging memory. They may also struggle with remembering how to do familiar tasks or the way to people’s houses, restaurants or other frequently visited locations. Instead of allowing them to dwell on these weaknesses, be sure to always reinforce their strengths.
Day in and day out
As your loved one’s memory begins to become less and reliable, doing things at the same time every day, like dressing, eating and going to bed, helps them know what to expect when. Routine gives people with Alzheimer’s comfort, but should that routine change, it can lead to confusion. Help them create a schedule and stick to it.
Making plans for what’s ahead
When you suggest to your loved one that they make plans for their care, they may respond: “Why? I still feel fine.” But that’s precisely why now is the time to do it. Schedule a meeting with a lawyer, while they are still able to make their wishes known, and make important decisions about long-term care, finances and property, as well as selecting someone (you if you will be their caregiver) to make decisions on their behalf when they are no longer able to.
If you’ve cared for someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, share your experience.