Learning that your aging parent has Alzheimer's is heartbreaking, though for some families it can also be a relief to have an official diagnosis after noticing behavioral changes for months or even years. With Alzheimer's comes cognitive and memory changes and, in some cases, personality changes as well. Alzheimer's progresses differently for everyone, so individualized care and attention is key. Here are a few ways you can help your parent after this life-changing diagnosis.
Explore Care Options
Depending on how advanced your parent's Alzheimer's is, they will likely either need in-home health care or to move into an Alzheimer's care facility like The Independence Houses. Their doctor will be able to advise you and your parent about which is the appropriate option at this time.
If hiring an in-home health aide, it is important to go with a company that specializes in Alzheimer's and memory care, as this type of care is different from helping seniors who do not have a cognitive disease. In many cases, insurance (especially Medicaid or Medicare) will cover the cost of in-home health care, as well as a medically necessary residential care facility when the time comes.
Join an Alzheimer's Support Group
The Alzheimer's Association offers local support groups, as well as online message boards and newsletters for family members and caregivers. Support groups are important because this is a great way for you to learn more about Alzheimer's from medical professionals as well as those family members who are in a similar situation.
The more educated you are about Alzheimer's, the more help you will be to your parent. Support groups are also important because they give you an emotional outlet and sounding board. Helping to care for a parent with Alzheimer's can be overwhelming, and it is comforting to have the support of people going through the same thing.
Take Care of Yourself
If you are drained, exhausted, resentful, or suffer from caregiver's fatigue, you will not be able to effectively help your parent. You are facing a complex, emotionally difficult situation, and it is crucial that you take care of yourself during this time. Delegate caregiving tasks to medical professionals or other family members when you feel overwhelmed. Take time to yourself, spend time laughing with friends and family, work out, get enough sleep, and talk to a therapist if you feel overwhelmed. Taking good care of yourself is not something to feel guilty about.
By taking advantage of available resources for those with Alzheimer's and following these tips, you will be doing everything you can to help your parent feel cared for and comfortable during this difficult time.