caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease likely can
relate to former first lady Nancy Reagan, who called the
illness suffered by former President Ronald Reagan "a
truly long, long goodbye."
Reagan, who died Sunday at age 94, was a tireless advocate for
Alzheimer’s patients and their families, recalls Mayo Clinic
neurologist Dr. Ronald Petersen, who knew the Reagans well.
many respects, Mrs. Reagan was the optimal caregiver,
providing love and support for the president in a fashion
similar to many other Americans whose families deal with this
difficult diagnosis," he said.
an estimated 5.3 million Americans had Alzheimer’s disease,
according to the Alzheimer’s Association. As the disease
progresses, once-simple tasks become difficult or impossible.
tips can help your loved maintain a sense of independence and
challenges resulting from Alzheimer’s:
a routine to make each day more predictable and less
confusing. Schedule the most difficult tasks, such as bathing
or medical appointments, for the time of day when your loved
one is most calm.
Adapt your routine, as needed.
example, if your loved one insists on wearing the same outfit
every day, consider buying a few identical outfits. When your
loved one is bathing, switch the worn outfit for a clean one.
things to take longer than they once did. Schedule more time
to complete tasks, so you don’t need to hurry your loved
Involve your loved one.
your loved one to do as much as possible with the least amount
of assistance. For example, perhaps your loved one can dress
alone if you lay out the clothes in the order they go on.
fewer the options, the easier it is to decide. For example,
provide two outfits to choose between — not a closet full of
clothes. Eliminate belts or accessories that are likely to be
put on incorrectly.
the TV, and minimize distractions at mealtime and during
conversations, so your loved one can better focus on the task
your loved one with Alzheimer’s safe:
scatter rugs, extension cords and any clutter that could cause
your loved one to trip or fall. Install handrails or grab bars
in critical areas.
locks on cabinets that contain anything potentially dangerous,
such as medicine, alcohol, guns, toxic cleaning substances,
dangerous utensils and tools.
Check water temperature.
the thermostat on the hot-water heater to prevent burns.
fire safety precautions.
matches and lighters out of reach. If your loved one smokes,
make sure he or she does so with supervision. Have an
accessible fire extinguisher and smoke alarms with fresh
for the CaregiverAlzheimer’s caregivers need all the support
they can get. If you know someone who’s caring for a loved
one who has Alzheimer’s disease, here’s how to help:
specific when you offer help:
want to support a friend caring for a loved one, make a
concrete offer. For example:
"I’m going to the grocery store. What can I pick up for
"I’ve got a few free hours tomorrow. May I sit in for
you, while you run errands or take time for yourself?"
"I doubled my meatloaf recipe, so I could share with you.
I brought enough to last you for several meals."
"Does your yard need to be mowed? I’d be happy to take
care of it this weekend."
with the caregiver:
a card or calling a caregiver can be a meaningful way to show
support. Emails and text messages work, too; however, personal
visits can be better. Contact with the outside world can lift
a caregiver’s spirits.