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Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are an unavoidable fact of life for many of us as we move into our later years. For those of us who make it to age 85, there is nearly a 50–50 chance we will suffer from Alzheimer’s; if we have complicating factors such as diabetes, the likelihood rises significantly.
Yet people with Alzheimer’s, like most seniors, want to live out their lives at home rather than having to move into a facility. And there is good news: With our help, an Alzheimer’s patient can certainly live at home, at least in early stages of the disease.
At Stay at Home, we have long and extensive experience working with Alzheimer’s sufferers. In its early stages, the disease shows up as forgetfulness. Someone will forget they left the stove on, or whether or not they’ve had a meal. They will lose skills such as the ability to judge distances, meaning they can no longer drive safely. In such cases, we may fill the role of chauffeur and provide reminders of things that need to be done.
We also provide much-needed stimulation for clients when they get too little human contact, and activities when they get too little physical exertion. Regular human contact is important for most of us, but it is even more critical for someone suffering from dementia. The same holds true for simple activities such as walking and shopping. Even if we visit only two or three times a week, that time helps our clients remain as sharp as possible for as long as possible.
Later on in the illness, we may help with such basic tasks as bathing. Alzheimer’s patients often become resistant to bathing. But instead of pressuring our clients, we offer incentives such as a trip to a coffee shop (Alzheimer’s sufferers often enjoy caffeine because it stimulates the brain). Or we may watch over a patient that is experiencing hallucinations (for instance a walk in the woods may transform into a class field trip for a retired teacher).
In each of these cases, we approach our role with skill and compassion. If you have a loved one faced with the challenge of Alzheimer’s disease, please get in touch.
Information for this post comes from Andy Houck, owner and administrator of Stay at Home of Loudon.