Dementia is an illness that slowly robs people of their abilities. For families, it is difficult to witness a person you know and love start to slip away into the grips of Alzheimer’s disease.
What can you do to help protect your loved one’s dignity when they can’t do it for themselves?
Here are five tips you can use to help your senior maintain his or her dignity and quality of life.
Promoting Dignity for People with Alzheimer’s
- Make your senior loved one feel valued. Your loved one might not respond to or even understand the words “I love you” any more, but that doesn’t mean you should stop saying it. Now more than ever, your aging family member needs you and needs to feel that he or she still has your love and affection. Many people with dementia, especially those in the early stages of their disease, still have moments of clarity and awareness. Those moments might be fleeting, but how wonderful for them to know they are loved during those times.
- Help your family member feel safe. Older adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia sometimes experience hallucinations. It can leave them feeling scared or otherwise uncomfortable. Be sure to hold their hand when they feel frightened, or go ahead and take a look into that shadowy corner to confirm there’s nothing sinister waiting for them. You might feel a bit silly, but think of how much better you’ll make them feel by your small actions.
- Continue to celebrate your loved one’s life. It’s easy to forget someone’s birthday when even he or she can’t remember what day it is. But that doesn’t mean that you should neglect to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and other milestones in life. In fact, it’s important for you and your loved ones to celebrate the earlier, happier memories of their lives.
- Maintain their quality of life. Alzheimer’s and dementia can cause people to become more and more withdrawn. That doesn’t mean you should remove all of the trappings of their former lives. Keep artwork on the walls, particularly family photographs. It may help to use older photographs that your loved one might be more likely to recognize.
- Make decisions with their best interests in mind. When you are caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or dementia, it is tempting to make decisions based on your own convenience. And while it’s important to maintain your own quality life as a hardworking caregiver, you should also keep your senior loved one’s best interests in mind. Whether it’s deciding upon an assisted living community with memory care or interviewing health care professionals to work with him or her on a regular basis, focus on what is best for them.
It can be difficult to remain optimistic in the face of a battle like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. However, when you witness your loved one living with dignity, it can make a big difference in how well you feel about the job you are doing as a caregiver. We hope these tips help!
It’s a fact of life that our bodies change as we grow older. Most of us begin to move a bit more slowly than we did when we were younger. Likewise, it might take a bit longer for our brains to process information. However, there is a difference between a minor lapse in memory and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Normal Aging?
As we age, it is normal to experience changes in memory and the way our brain receives information. Sometimes, we forget things. Life can be hectic, after all, so it is easy to forget things like new acquaintances’ names or where we last put the car keys. This type of memory lapse can be annoying or inconvenient, but it is a common occurrence for people stressed out by work and family commitments.
However, when these lapses become more frequent and start to interfere with our daily lives, it could be a sign that there is something more serious happening within our brains.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a disorder in which the brain’s nerve cells become damaged or destroyed over time. It is a form of dementia, which is a term used for the group of symptoms that are the result of various brain disorders.
These disorders can affect any or all of the following:
- Memory – both short-term and long-term
- Language capabilities – including reading, writing, and speaking
- Visuospatial function – the capacity to comprehend things like maps, directions or symbols
- Executive function – which is the ability to complete tasks and problem solve
The Mayo Clinic reports that Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of individuals who are exhibiting symptoms of a brain disorder. While Alzheimer’s disease predominantly affects people age 65 and over, cases have been noted among some individuals as early as in their 30s.
The Onset of Alzheimer’s
When memory lapses become consistent or are enough to disrupt work, social lives, or hobbies, it could mean the onset of Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association notes the following as common symptoms of the disease:
- Mood swings
- Difficulty completing tasks
- Misplacing objects on a regular basis
- Difficulty with organization
- Becoming lost or disoriented
It’s important to remember that not everyone who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will exhibit all of these symptoms. Alternatively, people who exhibit any of these symptoms might not be experiencing the onset of Alzheimer’s.
This is where a memory screening will be helpful. A memory screening evaluates an individual’s memory to determine whether it is necessary to schedule a follow-up appointment with a physician or other health care professional.
Specialized Care for People Living with Alzheimer’s
When someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, he or she will begin to show a decreased ability to socialize and communicate with others. As the brain disorder progresses, a person will begin to lose the ability to complete by themselves even the most basic of tasks.
While it is difficult to see a loved one experience cognitive decline, a senior living community that specializes in memory care will help your friend or family member continue to live with the dignity he or she deserves.
You can’t turn on the television or pick up a magazine without hearing how a well-balanced diet is the key to good health and a better quality of life. But what might surprise you is how many people in this country suffer from malnutrition. And our seniors are among them.
Older adults are at high risk for malnutrition for many reasons. If you are a caregiver for a senior loved one, it’s important that you learn more about nutrition and how to recognize when an older adult isn’t getting the vital nutrients they need.
The Effects of Malnutrition
A poor diet can lead to a host of health complications for seniors, including a weaker immune system, slower healing capabilities, and muscle fatigue. The Alliance to Advance Patient Nutrition reports that 1 in 3 patients admitted to the hospital suffer from malnutrition.
Individuals who don’t have access to good nutrition are three times more likely to develop an infection after surgery than their peers who eat a healthy diet. This puts them at a high risk for being readmitted to the hospital.
Recognize the signs of malnutrition
The most basic cases of malnutrition involve either too little food or a diet that is devoid of nutrients and full of empty calories. However, the Mayo Clinic reminds us that food isn’t the only culprit when it comes to malnutrition. A combination of physical, social, and psychological issues can lead to poor eating habits for seniors:
Older adults who have health problems may eat an improper diet. For example, individuals living with dementia can forget to eat or have trouble preparing proper meals for themselves. A senior with a health issue like diabetes or heart disease may be placed on restricted diets by their physician. While this is necessary, they might not understand what foods they can safely eat so they end up not eating much as a result.
In our society, food is often enjoyed in the company of friends and family. Single seniors might find that eating alone is not very enjoyable. Or they might lose interest in cooking for themselves, and eat convenience foods which are typically high in sodium and low in nutrition.
There are many causes of depression in older adults. Some of the more common ones include grief, loneliness, and poor health. These factors are known to diminish a person’s appetite.
How to Help a Senior Loved One Prevent Malnutrition
If you know a senior loved one is at risk for malnutrition, here’s how you can help:
- Sign up for a meal program. Meals on Wheels is a program that ensures older adults are receiving proper nutrition each day. Call your local agency on aging to learn more.
- Register for food benefits. Seniors who need help paying the bills may be eligible to sign up for government food benefit programs. The AARP Benefits QuickLINK makes it easy for individuals to see for what benefits they are eligible.
- Consider a move to senior living. If a senior loved one is struggling to maintain a healthy diet, another option is to consider a move to a senior living community. Three well-balanced meals and nutritious snacks are typically included with monthly rent.
A nutrient-rich diet is one of the basic building blocks for good health. Ensure that your senior loved one has proper access to healthy food so that they can enjoy their best quality of life.