Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disease where symptoms worsen over time. However, in the early stages of the disease, most people are able to function independently and some are still able to volunteer and work. This can be a challenging time for caregivers who want to be available to help while encouraging independence and respecting the privacy of a parent or senior loved one.
Read our early-stage caregiving tips and how to prepare for a loved one’s future with Alzheimer’s.
Early-Stage Caregiving Tips for Alzheimer’s
The early stage of Alzheimer’s can be a difficult time for the person with the disease, their caregivers and loved ones who may be anxious about the future and unsure how to proceed. These feelings are normal and being honest and open about them can spur helpful conversations about the future, which now seems uncertain.
One of the biggest challenges in early-stage caregiving for Alzheimer’s is finding a balance between assistance and independence. You want to be there for your loved one without being offensive or overbearing.
While every relationship has its own unique dynamics, these general rules can help you decide when to step in and when to give your loved one space:
1. Assume the best.
Unless there is an immediate safety concern, assume your loved one is capable of performing the task at hand.
2. Break up your task list and include your loved one as much as possible.
For example, if grocery shopping is too overwhelming right now, ask your loved one to help plan meals and prepare the grocery list. Focus on what your loved one can do and encourage them in those tasks.
3. Establish open communication.
Create a help signal that is just for you and your loved one that will let you know when they would like your help. Let him or her know that you want what’s best for them and are here to help in whatever form that takes.
4. Is there a safety concern?
Could performing this task alone cause your loved one with Alzheimer’s injury or harm? If yes, step in. If no, stand by and offer your encouragement and support.
How to Prepare for a Future With Alzheimer’s
As the disease progresses differently for each person, it can be hard for caregivers to know when to take the lead.
To ensure proper care is being provided, ask your parent or senior loved one if they would like your assistance with the following tasks:
- Arranging transportation or driving
- Making and tracking medical appointments
- Medication management
- Planning and organizing daily tasks
- Remembering names and words, and as the disease progresses, people
While you help your senior loved one cope with this new diagnosis, do not overlook its impact on you as a caregiver.
Many caregivers feel anger, anxiety, denial, depression, fear, frustration and grief after a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. These are normal emotions. Reach out to your loved one, to a counselor or a support group to work through these emotions and navigate this challenging time.
How have you found balance while early-stage caregiving? We’d like to hear your stories and any suggestions you’re willing to share in the comments below.