As a caregiver or care partner, you may find yourself with so many responsibilities that you neglect taking good care of yourself. But the best thing you can do for the person you are caring for is stay physically and emotionally strong.
If you are caring for someone in the late-stages of Alzheimer’s, talk to your health care provider about the seasonal flu shot. Being vaccinated protects both you and the person you are caring for.
Be sure to visit your physician regularly (at least annually), and listen to what your body is telling you. Any exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness, or changes in appetite or behavior should be taken seriously. Ignoring these symptoms can cause your physical and mental health to decline.
No doubt you know that exercise is an important part of staying healthy – it can help relieve stress, prevent disease and make you feel good. But finding the time to exercise is another story.
Use these tips….
1. Take families up on their offer to help. You can get in a good workout in a short amount of time — even a 30 minute break. Help coordinate a schedule where you have breaks to exercise and take care of your health.
2. Start Small. While it is recommended that you get 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week, even 10 minutes a day can help. Fit in what you can, and work toward a goal..
3. Exercise at home. When the person with dementia naps, pull out a yoga mat and stretch, set up a stationary bike, or try exercise tapes.
4. Find something you love. If you enjoy the activity, it will be easier to make it a habit.
5. Create your care team. Caregiving is both rewarding and challenging. It’s important to ask for the help and break that you and the individual living with dementia need. When friends and family ask what they can do to help, accept their offer.
By doing this you will be building your care team. It can be difficult to coordinate helpers in a way that meets your needs and the needs of the person with dementia.
A resource such as a care team calendar is a personalized online tool to organize family and friends who want to help with caregiving. This makes it easy to share activities and information with your care team. You can post items for which assistance is needed and care team members, can sign up for specific tasks.
Following are several free, online care calendar resources that families can use to build their care teams, share tasks and coordinate helpers:
It’s important to also involve family members who live at a distance. They may help arrange appointments, manage finances and visit to have time with the person with dementia, and give primary caregivers a break.
Quick tips and Resources.
Taking care of concerns, such as a family member’s safety, nutrition and health, can be difficult when you don’t live nearby. There are numerous ways to provide caregiving support from a distance, such as emotional support, making medical appointments, researching services in the community, visiting when possible to give day-to-day caregivers a break, or managing finances.
Being prepared and helping organize services and can go a long way in helping coordinate care from a distance.
If the person living with dementia is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and lives independently, you will need to reassess care needs at each visit. It is also important to check in with family and friends who provide day-to-day care.
1. Is there food in the refrigerator? Is it spoiled? Is the person eating regular meals?
2. What is the condition of the inside and the outside of the home? Has it changed?
3. Are the bills paid? Are there piles of unopened mail?
4. Do friends and relatives visit regularly?
5. What is the person’s personal appearance? Is the person bathing and grooming?
6. Is the person still able to drive safely?
7. How are family caregivers who live nearby? Do they have the information and support they need?
Early in the middle stages, it will become too difficult or dangerous for a person with Alzheimer’s to be left alone. The person will need supervision around the clock. During the late stages, around-the-clock care needs will become more intensive. There are several care options, including having a caregiver provide care in the home, moving the person into the home of a relative, or moving the person to a residential care facility.
Regardless of which care arrangement you use, periodically assess the situation to make sure the needs of both the person living with dementia and family caregivers are being met.
1. Is the person getting the help he or she needs with daily personal care, such as dressing, bathing and grooming?
2. Have safety precautions been taken throughout the living environment?
3. Do additional precautions needs to be taken?
4. Does the person have safe transportation to doctor’s appointments and other events?
5. Is the person engaged in meaningful activities during the day?
6. How are family caregivers doing?
7. Are they getting burned out? Is their health being affected?
8. Would they benefit from respite care or other supports?
9. Being prepared and helping organize services and can go a long way in helping coordinate care from a distance.
If you’re considering moving the person into your home, here are some things to think about:
1. Does he or she want to move? What about his or her spouse?
2. Is your home adapted to support the person?
3. Is your home adapted to support the person?
4. Will someone be at home to care for the person?
5. How does the rest of the family feel about the move?
6. How will this move affect your job, family and finances?
7. What respite services are available in your community to assist you?
8. How will providing direct care for a person with dementia impact your own health?
Moving a person with Alzheimer’s disease from familiar surroundings may cause increased agitation and confusion. Make sure to talk with the person’s physician, care team or a social worker. You can call the Alzheimer’s Association for assistance before making a decision.
Building a list of contacts and local resources is vital when coordinating care from a distance. Having trusted eyes close at hand is also essential to make sure care needs are being met.
Family, friends and neighbors: Make a list of phone numbers and addresses. Ask if you can check in with them to find out how your family member is doing. They may be willing to stop by the person’ living with dementia’s home for regular visits. There are a number of online calendars available to help coordinate caregiving support from friends, family and neighbors.
The health care team: Keep in contact with the primary physician and other key members of the health care team overseeing care, and make sure they can reach you if there are significant changes or concerns about your family member’s mental or physical well-being. Your family member will need to sign a release of information so health care providers are free to communicate with you.
Community organizations: Check with local churches, temples, neighborhood groups and volunteer organizations. They may provide meal delivery, transportation or companion services.
Aging agencies: You may be able to access services to help with meals, chores and transportation through your local area agency on aging. These agencies will often provide referrals to local resources.
Home and community-based services: Services such as home care and adult day services are available in most communities and can be arranged based on the person’s needs. These services can help with personal care activities, bathing, meals and medications and provide respite for caregivers. Adult day services and other congregate services also offer opportunities for socialization.
Geriatric care managers: These elder care experts specialize in assessing and monitoring the needs of the elderly. To find out more about their services, visit the Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers website or call 520.881.8008.
Trusted professionals: Elder law attorneys work with older clients and their families to get legal documents in place for making health care, legal and financial decisions.
Few long-distance caregivers are able to spend as much time with the person living with dementia as they would like. The key is to use your time effectively:
1. Make appointments with the person’s physician, lawyer and financial adviser during your visit to participate in decision-making.
2. Meet with neighbors, friends and other relatives to hear how they think the person is doing. Ask if there have been any behavioral changes, health problems or safety issues.
3. Take time to reconnect by talking, listening to music, going for a walk or participating in activities you enjoy together.
4. Check the person’s cupboards and refrigerator to make sure there is enough appropriate food.
5. Review medications to make sure they are being taken as prescribed.
6. Assess the support needs of family caregivers providing day-to-day care.