COPING WITH DAILY LIFE
When you get an illness like bronchitis or the flu, you know you will be feeling better and functioning normally within a week or so. Alzheimer’s disease is different. It will never go away and can change your life and lifestyle, and that of your family, in many ways. People with Alzheimer’s disease often have to deal with fatigue and losing the ability to do many of the things that they’re used to doing for themselves. Physical and mental changes from Alzheimer’s disease can affect your mood and appearance and can diminish your positive self-image and reduce your self-esteem.
When people don’t feel good about themselves, they often prefer isolation and withdraw from friends and social activities. Alzheimer’s disease can also influence your ability to function and get around at home. Confusion, as well as feeling disoriented and unable to make sound decisions, may require you to modify your work activities and environment. Because people with Alzheimer’s are unable to work, you may also find yourself in financial difficulty due to the rising costs of care.
TO HELP MAKE YOUR LIFE BETTER
- Find out as much as you can about the illness and talk to your friends and family about it. Don’t isolate them. You will need them, and they will want to be involved in helping to take care of you.
- Do things you enjoy.
- Do not be afraid to ask your doctor, nurse, or other health care provider to repeat any instructions or medical terms that you don’t understand or remember. They should always be available to answer your questions and address your concerns.
- Make use of resources and support services offered by your hospital and in your community. There are many support groups available for both Alzheimer’s disease sufferers and their families (see below).
- Learning to manage stress will help you to maintain a positive physical, emotional, and spiritual outlook on life. Being stressed out will only make the situation worse. You should try to organize a daily routine that will reduce stress, with down time for both you and your family members.
- If you, as the patient, find that you’re not able to cope or, as the caregiver, that you’re getting stressed out, you should seek more intensive help with a mental health professional. Taking action early will enable you to understand and deal with the many effects of having a long-term illness. A mental health professional can design a treatment plan to meet your specific needs. Strategies can be designed to help you regain a sense of control over your life and improve your quality of life, something everyone deserves.
- If you are depressed, and this is more than just feeling sad occasionally, antidepressants can be prescribed to help lift your mood.
TO HELP COPE WITH MEMORY PROBLEMS
- Always keep a book with you to record important information, phone numbers, names, ideas you have, appointments, your address, and directions to your home.
- Place sticky notes around the house when you need to remember things.
- Label cupboards and drawers with words or pictures that describe their contents.
- Place important phone numbers in large print next to the phone.
- Ask a friend or family member to call and remind you of important things that you need to do in the day, like meal times, medication times, and appointments.
- Use a calendar to keep track of time and to remember important dates.
- Use photos of people you see often labeled with their names.
- Keep track of phone messages by using an answering machine.
IN PLANNING YOUR DAY
- Find things to do that you enjoy and are able to do safely on your own.
- It will be easier to accomplish tasks during the times of the day when you feel best.
- Allow yourself the time to do the things you need to do, and don’t feel rushed or let other people rush you.
- If something gets too difficult, take a break.
- Ask for help if you need it.
TO KEEP FROM GETTING LOST
- Ask someone to go with you when you go out.
- Ask for help if you need it and explain that you have a memory problem.
- Always take directions for where you’re going with you.
TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE WELL TAKEN CARE OF AT HOME, PUT SOME OF THESE MEASURES INTO PLACE EARLY SO THEY BECOME ROUTINE
- Ask a neighbor you trust to keep a set of house keys.
- Ask a friend or family member to help you to organize your closets and drawers to make it easier for you to find things.
- Ask a family member to check things out around the house, such as electrical appliances, mail, and perishable food items.
- Keep a list of important and emergency numbers by the phone.
- Have family, friends, or a community service program call or visit daily to ensure that everything is alright.
- Ask someone to check your smoke alarm regularly. It is important to realize that at some point, it will become too difficult or dangerous for you to live by yourself. But, in the earliest stages of the disease, many people do manage on their own, with support and help from friends, family, and community programs and with simple adjustments and safety practices in place.
While there is no special diet required for people with Alzheimer’s disease, unless they have another condition, such as diabetes, that requires a particular diet, eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is extremely beneficial. With the proper diet, our bodies work more efficiently and we have more energy.
- Eat a variety of foods from each food category.
- Maintain your weight through a proper balance of exercise and food.
- Choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Try to limit sugars.
- Moderate your use of salt.
- Drink eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day (unless you are fluid restricted due to another medical condition, such as congestive heart failure).
- You may drink alcoholic beverages in moderation (but always consult your doctor). Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes.
For people with Alzheimer’s disease, physical activity should be continued for as long as possible. This will help prevent muscle weakness and health complications associated with inactivity. Exercise also promotes a normal day-and-night routine and may help to improve mood.
Repetitive exercises, such as walking, indoor bicycling, and activities such as folding laundry, may decrease anxiety in people with Alzheimer’s disease because they don’t have to make decisions about the activity or remember what to do next. While exercise does not stop Alzheimer’s disease from progressing, patients do receive the emotional satisfaction of feeling they have accomplished something. You should check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
YOUR DOCTOR MAY MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS ABOUT
- The types of exercise best suited to you and those to avoid.
- How hard you should be working out.
- How long you should work out.
- Referrals to other professionals, such as a physical therapist, who can help you create your own personal exercise program. The type of exercise that works best for you depends on your symptoms, fitness level, and overall health. The final precaution, when you get the OK to begin exercising, is to go slowly. Some suggestions include: Gardening, walking, swimming, water aerobics, yoga, and Tai Chi.
COUNSELING AND SUPPORT
Alzheimer’s disease, as with many chronic illnesses, will affect you both physically and mentally. It is important to realize that you are not alone and that if you feel you need help coping, you should consider seeking counseling. The decision to seek counseling is an important step. Too often, people don’t get help because they feel ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed.
By deciding to get help, you make the choice to feel better and improve your life. Counseling services should be chosen with care so that you find something that best meets your needs. Working with a trained mental health care provider, you can develop the right treatment plan.