Caregiving Tips: Preparing for Alzheimer (guest blog by Carla Lopez)
After the initial shock of your loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis subsides, it’s time to start making preparations for future care. Although your loved one may be able to still function independently, Alzheimer’s is an extremely unique disease that progresses at various stages. One day they can rattle off their birthday without the slightest thought and then the next day have trouble recalling the current year. Knowing that a loved one has Alzheimer’s is a huge emotional pill to swallow, but being aware gives you and your loved one plenty of time to prepare for what is to come.
Have “The Talk”
When we are younger, “the talk” refers to the birds and the bees and what exactly is involved in creating a new life. However, as we age, “the talk” refers to making plans for the day when the last page of our life is turned. There is no such thing as a wrong time to have this conversation with your loved one, but an Alzheimer’s diagnosis warrants having the conversation sooner rather than later while your loved one is still mentally and physically capable of doing so. Bear in mind that end-of-life planning is an emotional process, so don’t expect to cover everything in one sitting; tackle one area at a time.
Make sure all wills, trusts, and advanced directives are updated and copies are made. Now is a good time to seriously consider having your loved one sign a durable power of attorney (POA), giving you, the caregiver, control over financial and medical decisions once your loved one becomes unable to do so. Should your loved one already be in the advanced stages of dementia, it will be wise to seek conservatorship status through the court system.
Get Your Home Ready
There will eventually come a point when your loved one can’t continue to live safely by themselves, so before you open your home to them, make sure to complete a few modifications. Start by addressing the main rooms of your home such as the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.
Make sure all household cleaners are locked away, along with medications, sharp objects, or firearms. In the kitchen, the biggest risk is the stove, which can cause injury from burns and potential fires. You might just feel safer knowing that your loved one can’t access the kitchen without your supervision. Install knob covers, a switch that only you know the location of, or lock the stove altogether. The bedroom (and home in general) should be fitted with a monitoring system to track and prevent wandering, as well as curtains so as to not confuse day and night. Both the bedroom and bathroom should have nightlights for safe navigation and be clutter-free to reduce confusion and increase ease of use.
If some of these modifications aren’t affordable, you could refinance your home. Refinancing can give you a lump payment which you can use to pay for home modifications. If you’re going this route, make sure you discuss your options with a reputable lender first.
Prepare Your Mind
Being a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s disease is tough work, so it is imperative that you are prepared to take on such a task. Before you even think about bringing your loved one into your home, do some research on the disease so you are knowledgeable of the different stages and potential obstacles that come along with each. Consider joining a support group so that you have a healthy outlet to vent your emotions, struggles, and triumphs.
Continue to do things outside of your caregiving role such as enjoyable activities and spending time with friends. At the same time, you may also find it helpful to pursue activities both you and your loved one can participate in together.
All in all, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease involves a lot of preparation. Not only do you need to ensure that all your loved one’s affairs are in order, but you also need to modify your home and prepare yourself for the journey ahead. At times it will be overwhelming and downright frustrating, but with the right planning, you can do this.
Do you need some extra health/ wellness or legal support caring for your loved one? Contact Maureen Sullivan RN .