The Role of the Caregiver

Caregiver SupportIn the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, people experience a gradual loss of memory along with a slow decline in cognitive and reasoning skills. At the outset, this can be frustrating and challenging, as forgetfulness increases and tasks that were once routine become harder to manage. But some simple coping tips and strategies can help with daily tasks and extend the opportunity to live an engaged and independent life.

Before employing any of these strategies, it is important to acknowledge that your abilities are declining and will continue to deteriorate as the disease progresses. Coping strategies can help you retain a sense of control in your day-to-day life, but they may need to be adjusted over time as needs change.

For starters, keep a notebook, smartphone or tablet with you at all times. You can use this to keep track of important information such as contact names and numbers, appointments, notes and reminders. Your notes can help you identify areas where you may need some extra help such as remembering to take medications or reminders for appointments. You can then ask a friend or family member to remind you of things you tend to forget more frequently.

Use sticky notes to write reminders for yourself. You can attach labels with people’s names on pictures of friends and family you see often. Place sticky notes or picture labels to mark drawers and cupboards so you remember where to find things. If it makes sense, you could have a loved one help you organize drawers and cupboards to simplify access to things you use the most.

Write out a daily plan and maintain a regular routine as much as you can. Keep it simple and don’t set unrealistic expectations. Keeping a routine schedule can help take the guesswork out of what to do with your day. If there are weekly or monthly tasks you think you will need help with, such as paying bills, or remembering medical appointments, make sure you enlist the assistance of a friend or family member. Do schedule time for yourself to continue doing things you find easy and enjoyable.

While some individuals with Alzheimer’s might feel that asking for assistance represents neediness and loss of control, having an understanding of where both your strengths and weaknesses are and asking for help as needed will help contribute to your continued independence.

Depending on what particular challenges you may encounter as the disease progresses, you and your loved ones can develop specific strategies to help you cope. For example, one individual who feels anxious about losing a spouse in a crowded area always wears the same color shirt as the spouse when they go out in public. This way, looking at their own shirt helps with remembering what the spouse is wearing.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers a helpful list of coping tipsthat can assist with managing daily tasks in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

In the early mild stages of the disease, you can remain active and independent. Get to know which activities feel easy for you, which activities cause stress and may need more time than you are accustomed to, and which activities require you to call upon loved ones for assistance. Using whatever strategies work for remembering important information and completing essential tasks can help you live with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease with independence and dignity.