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Unique Challenges Faced By Alzheimer's & Dementia Caregivers

By Alyssa Ball

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As seniors age, they may require more care than ever before. Whether it is assistance with personal care or simple companionship, seniors may need extra help to stay healthy, happy, and strong. But for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, even the simplest things can become difficult or impossible. These unique conditions require unique and specialized care that allows the senior to remain safe and happy. But caring for a senior with dementia or Alzheimer's comes with its own unique challenges and requirements. 

Why Seniors with Dementia or Alzheimer's Disease Require Specialized Care

The symptoms and results of Alzheimer's disease and dementia are unlike any other condition dealt with by seniors. These conditions can affect every area of a senior's life, making specialized and personalized care even more important. Each and every case of dementia is unique to the person facing it, but here are a few things seniors with these conditions can experience:

  • General loss of memory and cognitive thinking
  • Changes (sometimes sudden) in mood and/or behavior
  • Disorientation and general confusion
  • Loss of ability to speak or hold conversations
  • Difficulty walking or swallowing
  • Inability to recognize people, places, and/or time
  • Inability to participate in activities, including personal care and the requirements of daily life
  • The worsening of all symptoms over time

What Caregivers Need to Know

There is a lot required of anyone caring for a senior. But since the damage of dementia and Alzheimer's is progressive and always unique, the duties of a caregiver in these situations can be extensive. Not only must the caregiver provide the senior with a variety of services, but there are a variety of challenges the caregiver faces themselves. This can be especially true for family caregivers.

Basic Duties of a Senior Caregiver

There are a variety of skills and duties required when caring for a senior with dementia or Alzheimer's. Here are some of the duties required of caregivers:

  • Physical care/basic needs: Seniors may need help with bathing and grooming, as well as moving, walking, or eating. Caregivers may be required to lift and move seniors, as well as assist them with daily life activities.

  • Housekeeping and cooking: Many seniors cannot clean and cook in the kitchen like they used to. In fact, for many seniors, it is simply unsafe. Caregivers may need to help seniors with housekeeping chores, laundering, and cooking meals.

  • Medical and nutritional care: Like most caregivers, they may need to help seniors take medication, get to the doctors, and more. Caregivers must also be able to assess medical needs as well. Caregivers may also be required to heed certain nutritional needs, allergies, fluid intake, and more.

  • Social interaction: Seniors are much more likely to experience loneliness and isolation, which makes caregiving as much a social engagement as it is a medical requirement. Caregivers provide companionship to seniors, help them stay social, and help identify emotional needs.

  • Finances: For many family caregivers, there is a strong burden on finances when a senior needs care. Caregivers may be responsible for managing finances, paying bills, and more.

Unique Challenges of Dementia Caregivers

The conditions of an Alzheimer's or dementia patient are very unique and can be difficult to manage. This takes caregiving to a whole different level. Here are some of the unique responsibilities these caregivers face. 

Education

Caregivers of seniors with any form of dementia must be educated about the condition, first and foremost. For many family caregivers, staying educated may also mean making a decision about seeking specialized care in another way/location. All caregivers must be able to plan and look ahead, always preparing for every situation. Caregivers must be especially knowledgeable about common symptoms and outcomes of these conditions, as well as safety protocols and the effects of caregiving on the caregiver.

Emotional Support

Caregivers must provide just as much emotional support as they do physical. This means dealing with a senior's possible anxiety and helping them accept the fact that they have dementia. They must be able to ease anxiety, stay calm, and be patient when a senior is upset. Caregivers must be actively involved in almost all aspects of a senior's care. This includes connections between medical teams, family and loved ones, other members of a care team, and more. Caregivers must be able to effectively communicate with every element of a senior's care.

Adaptability

Caregivers must gain a special knack for assessing situations when it comes to seniors with dementia. They must be able to make judgment calls and notice even the subtlest changes in a senior's behavior, symptoms, or environment. This also means caregivers must have to ability to adapt and change as needed. Caregivers of seniors with any type of dementia must be able to evaluate a senior's surroundings for safety hazards and potential risks, as well as identify any new or worsening problems.

Self-Care

But caring for a senior with Alzheimer's or dementia means also caring for the caregiver. This means that a caregiver must take special care of themselves in order to care properly for the senior. It can be hard to deal with certain behaviors, be patient when a senior's memory is slowing, and listen to hurtful things that may be said. Symptoms can not only be erratic and hard to deal with but emotionally straining for the caregiver. In these situations, caregivers must practice excellent self-care. Caring for seniors with these conditions can be very physically and emotionally demanding.

Dementia and the results of this hard condition can be difficult on both the senior and caregiver. Caregivers must be physically, emotionally, and intellectually prepared for all of the challenges associated with dementia caregiving. Contact us today to find out more about specialized care and how we can help.

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Alyssa Ball Blog Author

Tags: Alzheimer's & Dementia, Caregivers

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