Since 1983, November has been recognized as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. In the past 35 years, the number of individuals diagnosed with the disease has increased from less than 2 million to more than 5 million.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are steps you can take to help an individual with the disease. These include things like keeping a daily routine, saying only one thing at a time, providing reassurance and remaining calm at all times. Caring for an Alzheimer’s patient becomes more difficult over time as the disease progresses and many families believe that a nursing home or memory care facility is the only way to keep their loved one safe. This is not always the case, however.
When a parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the immediate reaction is often to immediately move them to a memory care facility or hire a full-time caregiver. While this may be necessary down the road, early stage Alzheimer’s is often mild and can last for years. In other words, you don’t have to make any hasty decisions.
The first thing you need to do is to talk to your parent’s physician to see how far the disease has progressed. If they are still in the early stages, ask yourself a few questions. Is your parent able to make their own meals? Can they remember when to take medications? If they want to stay in their own home, it is likely that they can do so with only a few adjustments.
What follows is a list of some of the things you need to consider if you have a parent who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and would prefer to say in their own home:
- Transportation: When the time comes for your parent to stop driving, you will need to come up with a schedule for friends and family members to drive them where they need to go such as the grocery store or doctor appointments.
- Meals: As Alzheimer’s progresses, it can be difficult and unsafe for your loved one to cook. Thankfully, there are several options such as meal planning kits and Meals on Wheels. You also could come over to help your parent prepare meals that can be microwaved throughout the week.
- Companionship: A home healthcare worker can prevent your parent from feeling isolated. This person also can help with bathing and light housekeeping. A home healthcare worker can assess your parent’s condition and call you if there are any changes in your loved one’s memory, behavior or overall well-being.
- Safety. Any elderly person who lives alone, especially one who has Alzheimer’s, must be kept safe. Your parent should have their phone nearby at all times with phone numbers of people who can help them already programmed into the phone. They also should carry a card with the name of a family member and physician to contact in an emergency. Cameras placed throughout the house and wearable devices also are good ideas.
Caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s is no easy task and the first reaction is often to move that parent out of their home immediately. If your parent wishes to stay in their home, however, there are ways to make that possible.