Learning Compassion: How to Care for Alzheimer’s Patients at Home

Updated on February 4, 2022

Although nearly 44 million people have this disease, there are lots of things we don’t know. Each patient is unique in their symptoms and behaviors.

Caregivers must be able to use patience, flexibility, and compassion in their work.

The way you communicate and act around the patient influences them. Without knowing it, you can make their day harder or easier. Caregiving is so much more than just grooming and feeding.

Are you wondering how to care for Alzheimer’s patients at home? These tips can help. Keep reading for eight ways to improve your caregiving for Alzheimer’s patients.

1. Prevent Accidents and Injuries

Seniors lose their balance and muscle tone as they age. This makes them more prone to trips, slips, and falls.

You can prevent these accidents from occurring. Remove all clutter from the home and ensure rugs are flush to the ground. Install grab bars around the house, like in the shower, stairs, and near the bed.

Set the water temperature to a fixed number. This will prevent them from burning themselves by turning the hot water up too much.

2. Understand the Disease

Alzheimer’s is a complicated and expansive disease. There’s still so much we don’t know about it. But, there is enough data to help us understand its typical progression.

Although each patient is different, learning about the disease, in general, is important. It allows you to predict oncoming symptoms and spot potential hazards.

You can consult the existing data on symptoms and learn how to handle them. It can also help you explain what’s going on to the patient themselves.

3. Empower Them with Independence

Just because they aren’t able to do everything doesn’t mean they can’t do some things. Giving them control and authority over some tasks improves their confidence.

When it’s time to choose a drink, give them a couple of options to choose from. If they want to put on makeup, help them. Encourage them to use their independence.

You can also ask them to help with housework. Choose reasonable chores for their abilities. It could be drying the dishes, folding laundry, or feeding the pets.

Use supervision when appropriate, of course.

4. Set a Flexible Routine

Patients with Alzheimer’s often benefit from having a routine. It gives them something to rely on and practice remembering. But, don’t rely on the routine too strictly.

Sometimes things come up, and that’s okay. If the patient decides they don’t want to change out of their pajamas, don’t push them.

The routine helps take you both through daily caregiving activities. But, remember that they are in charge of their decisions. Use the schedule to guide your day together, but don’t force the patient to adhere to it.  

5. Brain Gymnastics

Like any other muscle or organ, if you don’t use the brain it loses its function. Alzheimer’s patients are losing brain function from the disease, but you can help prolong it.

Brain exercises like puzzles, trivia, and word games all stimulate the brain. Consider implementing brain gymnastic time into the daily routine.

If the patient starts getting agitated or upset by an activity, put it on pause. Focus instead on redirecting them and calming them down. You can resume a different exercise later on.

6. Take Care of Yourself

Your ability to provide excellent care depends on your own self-care. If you are feeling stressed, overworked, and unhappy, you won’t provide good care.

Find ways to take care of yourself every day and every week.

This could mean asking for help once a week to give you time off. Do things you enjoy that don’t relate to your work. Invest in your life outside of your career.

You could also ask for help in creating their dementia care plan. Work with their doctors, therapists, and social workers on this.

Take care of your body. Caregiving is a physically demanding job. Ensure you’re stretching, exercising, and getting massage therapy when necessary.  

7. Agitation and Negative Behavior

Two common symptoms of Alzheimer’s are agitation and sundowning. Patients can become aggressive and irritated seemingly without cause. It’s the caregiver’s job to neutralize their emotions and calm them down.

Aggression can result in injury to themselves and others. Start by listening to them tell you what’s wrong. Be patient and don’t interrupt; sometimes calming music can help.

If you can’t change the cause of their agitation, try to redirect their attention. Fill the home with happy triggers, things that make them feel happy, like family photos.

Reinforce the control they have over their life. Unless harmful or unsafe, let them take the lead on what they feel like doing. Look out for their safety, and then be a compassionate listening ear.

8. Compassionate Communication

As a caregiver, you’ll quickly learn that regular communication doesn’t always work. Patients with Alzheimer’s can get confused, paranoid, and agitated. The way you communicate can deescalate a tense situation.

Use their name when addressing them. They may feel confused about their identity. But, saying their name confirms one aspect of their identity for them.

Give simple instructions one step at a time. For example, when brushing teeth, start by asking them to pick up the brush. You could even do it alongside them to show the steps.

Avoid open-ended questions. Give them possible options or ask yes or no questions. Gently offer the word they’re looking for if they can’t think of it.

Want to Learn More About How to Care for Alzheimer’s Patients at Home?

Your compassion and communication skills are crucial for caregiving. Patients with Alzheimer’s can sometimes have confusing and erratic behavior. Your ability to understand and be empathetic will make the job much easier.

When wondering how to care for Alzheimer’s patients at home, use the tips above.

Western Pennsylvania Healthcare News has a Homecare section. This is where you’ll find more tips on Alzheimer’s care and being a caregiver in general. Your career is important; learn about the best tools to help you be more effective at it.

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