NIA’s Alzheimer’s Caring Guide in Spanish

Looking for Alzheimer’s caregiving information in Spanish?

Check out Cómo cuidar a una persona con la enfermedad de Alzheimer: Una guía fácil de usar del Instituto Nacional Sobre el Envejecimiento.

This new book from the National Institute on Aging (part of the National Institutes on Health) has helpful tips on topics including: changes in behavior; wandering; healthy eating and exercise; and caregiver health.

Copies are available to order for free on our website, or read the new Alzheimer’s caregiving information in Spanish online.

Tips for dealing with forgetfulness

People experiencing forgetfulness can use a variety of techniques that may help them stay healthy and deal with changes in their memory and mental skills.

Here are some things to try:

  • Learn a new skill.
  • Stay involved in activities that can help both the mind and body.
  • Volunteer in your community, at a school, or at your place of worship.
  • Spend time with friends and family.
  • Use memory tools such as big calendars, to-do lists, and notes to yourself.
  • Put your wallet or purse, keys, and glasses in the same place each day.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol.
  • Get help if you feel depressed for weeks at a time.

Visit the ADEAR website to get more tips and learn about what to do if you start noticing memory problems.

What to do when a person living with Alzheimer’s disease hides things

A person with Alzheimer’s disease may start rummaging or searching through cabinets, drawers, closets, the refrigerator, and other places where things are stored.

He or she also may hide items around the house. This behavior can be annoying or even dangerous for the person, caregiver, or family members.

Here are some tips to help cope with this behavior:

  • Keep the person with Alzheimer’s from going into unused rooms. This limits his or her rummaging through and hiding things.
  • Search the house to learn where the person often hides things. Once you find these places, check them often, out of sight of the person.
  • Keep all trash cans covered or out of sight. People with Alzheimer’s may not remember the purpose of the container and may rummage through it.
  • Check trash containers before you empty them, in case something has been hidden there or thrown away by accident.

Learn more about rummaging and hiding in Alzheimer’s disease.

10 Things Caregivers Can Do to Help Their Loved One with Dementia During a Hospital Stay

Caring for a loved one with dementia is a big job, but when a loved one with dementia is hospitalized, many new challenges appear.

By Natalie M. Bruck, BS.  (I am a Physician Assistant student at Rush University with anticipated graduation in December 2018.  I wrote this blog because I find that caregivers are an incredibly important part of the team to care for persons living with dementia.)

Caring for a loved one with dementia is a big job, but when a loved one with dementia is hospitalized, many new challenges appear. Research has shown that individuals with dementia who are hospitalized have an increased risk of developing complications during their hospital visit and tend to have longer hospital stays compared to patients without dementia. Fortunately, you, the caregiver, can do many things to improve a hospital stay for your loved one living with dementia.  Here are 10 things you can do:

1.) Come Prepared

For planned hospital stays, you should bring important medical information such as a list of medications and allergies, contact information for their health care providers and copies of advanced directives. This will allow for a smooth hospital stay and the health care team will have all the information they need to provide the best care. In addition to medical information, bringing changes of clothes, toiletries and familiar objects from home will allow for a more comfortable stay at the hospital.

While it may seem challenging, there are ways to prepare for an unexpected emergency room trip. It may be helpful to pack a bag with clothing, toiletries and important health information which can be kept in a closet at your home, but is ready to use if a loved one needs to go to the emergency room suddenly. Being prepared will allow you to grab a bag quickly and head to the hospital without worrying that you forgot something important.

2.)    Communication with Hospital Staff

Good communication with the hospital staff is important. You should be prepared to provide a description of your loved one’s medical condition and describe what is “normal” for them.  The care team then can identify any changes in your loved one’s condition that may indicate that something is wrong.

3.)    Bring Familiar Items from Home

Hospitals can be stressful and unfamiliar environments for patients with dementia. A family member or caregiver being present with the patient at all times can be comforting. Bringing items from home that are familiar to the patient such as a blanket, sweater, music or movies can make your loved one feel at ease and in an environment that is similar to their home.

4.)    Minimize Background Noise

Hospitals can be noisy places which can make patients with dementia feel agitated or anxious. Minimizing background noise during times of stress or agitation can be helpful. You can ask the nursing staff to lower the volume on any noisy machines and also keep the television at a low volume. You also can request a private room which can make it a quiet, more familiar environment for your loved one.

5.)    Organize a Team

When a loved one is in the hospital, gather your family and friends in order to create a  support team. A team can limit stress on the patient, family and friends. Having one person in charge of sending updates to family members on the person with dementia’s condition. Make sure that family members look out for one another and no one is feeling overwhelmed.

6.)    Talk to a Health Care Provider Immediately if Something Changes

While health care providers know which medical treatments are the best for their patients, no one knows your loved one better than you. Because you know him or her the best, help health care providers by letting them know about any changes that are not typical for your loved one. Changes can often be normal, but in many cases can be a sign of something more serious.

7.)    Avoid Longer Stays and Unnecessary Treatments

If your loved one is scheduled for surgery, ask their health care provider what you can do to shorten their hospital stay. Sometimes, you may be able to have separate appointments before their surgery which can shorten the amount of time they spend in the hospital. For patients with dementia, make their stay as short as possible to prevent complications and get them back to their normal routine. Also, be sure to ask their healthcare provider about anesthesia and what procedures are being done. Knowing what health care activities are taking place will help you look out for any side effects, changes or complications.

8.)    Be Aware of “Elderspeak”

Many caregivers, both family members and hospital staff, may talk in elderspeak. Elderspeak is language that uses simple vocabulary, changes in tone, changes in pitch and inappropriate terms of endearment. While many people may think that calling patients, “honey,” or, “sweetie,” could be comforting, the patient may feel upset, annoyed or looked down upon. Elderspeak can be upsetting for patients and may make them agitated and angry. If you encounter family members, friends or staff using elderspeak, don’t be afraid to speak up for your loved one.

9.)    Remember to Take Care of Yourself

Being in the hospital can be stressful. As your loved one’s caregiver, you need to take care of yourself. Remember to take frequent breaks and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Having other family members visit is helpful.  Taking shifts also can ease some of the stress.

10.)  Know Appropriate Follow Up Care

When your loved one is released from the hospital, make sure you and the care team have scheduled follow up appointments and tests. Make sure you are comfortable with this plan, and bring up any questions or concerns you may have regarding your loved one’s care.

Hospital stays for anyone can be quite stressful, and when an individual with dementia is hospitalized it adds a level of complexity which can lead to medical complications. Fortunately, caregivers and family members can do several things to make their loved one’s hospital stay easier, more enjoyable and safer for everyone.

Sources

[1] Bail K., Goss J., Draper B., Berry H., Karmel R., Gibson D. The cost of hospital-acquired complications for older people with and without dementia; a retrospective cohort study. BMC Health Services Research. 2015; 15:91.

[2] Fick D., Foreman M. Consequences of not recognizing delirium superimposed on dementia in hospitalized elderly individuals. Journal of Gerontol Nurs. 2000 Jan;26(1):30-40.

[3] Going to the Hospital: Tips for Dementia Caregivers. National Institute of Aging. 2017. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/going-hospital-tips-dementia-caregivers

[4] Williams KN., Herman R., Gajewski B., Wilson K. Elderspeak Communication: Impact on Dementia Care. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias. 2008; 24. 11-20.

 

Managing sleep problems in people with Alzheimer’s — Tips

Alzheimer’s disease often affects a person’s sleeping habits. It may be hard to get the person to go to bed and stay there. Someone with Alzheimer’s may sleep a lot or not enough, and may wake up many times during the night.

Here are some tips that may help caregivers manage sleep problems in people with Alzheimer’s disease:

  1. Help the person get exercise each day, limit naps, and make sure the person gets enough rest at night. Being overly tired can increase late-afternoon and nighttime restlessness.
  2. Plan activities that use more energy early in the day. For example, try bathing in the morning or having the largest family meal in the middle of the day.
  3. Set a quiet, peaceful mood in the evening to help the person relax. Keep the lights low, try to reduce the noise levels, and play soothing music if he or she enjoys it.
  4. Try to have the person go to bed at the same time each night. A bedtime routine, such as reading out loud, also may help.
  5. Limit caffeine.
  6. Use nightlights in the bedroom, hall, and bathroom.

Learn more about sleep and Alzheimer’s disease on the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral website.

Minimize danger around the house—tips for caregivers

People with Alzheimer’s disease may not see, smell, touch, hear and/or taste things as they used to. Make life safer around the house by:

  • Checking foods in the refrigerator often. Throw out anything that has gone bad.
  • Put away or lock up things like toothpaste, lotions, shampoos, rubbing alcohol, soap, or perfume. They may look and smell like food to a person with Alzheimer’s.
  • If the person wears a hearing aid, check the batteries and settings often.

Remember to re-evaluate the safety of the person’s home as behavior and abilities change.

Learn more about home safety for people with Alzheimer’s.

Make communication easier for a person with Alzheimer’s disease

Check out these 5 tips to make communication easier between you and a person with Alzheimer’s:

  • Make eye contact and call the person by name
  • Be aware of your tone, how loud your voice is, how you look at the person, and your body language
  • Encourage two-way conversation for as long as possible
  • Use other methods besides speaking, such as gentle touching
  • Try distracting the person if communication creates problems

Visit the ADEAR website to learn more about the changes in communication that may accompany Alzheimer’s disease.