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Caregivers and the Early Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
By Peter Ganther

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There are two areas where special attention by caregivers is required: in-home responsibilities and driving. In-home responsibilities are daily living activities such as cooking and cleaning, laundry and taking out the trash. These tasks, while seeming mundane to us, are potentially dangerous to a loved one with AD. She may forget to turn off the stove, get a hand caught in the washing machine’s agitator, or get lost taking out the trash. Driving is another problem area. If your loved one is still driving, constant evaluation of her driving skills is required. In some states, physicians are required to report those patients diagnosed with AD. It’s hard to take those keys away, because it is one of the last vestiges of your loved one’s independence. However, it is not just for their safety, but the safety of all others on the road.

It seems a bit overwhelming, doesn’t it? How does one cope with all of this? Learn everything you can about AD and about your community’s resources. Involve other family members in deciding preferences for long-term care. Be patient—not only with your loved one, but with yourself. Focus on the positive as much as possible—don’t dwell on what used to be, and try to avoid worrying excessively about your loved one’s future. The desire to have close relationships does not stop with a diagnosis of AD. Find ways in which you and your loved one can relate and maintain closeness. Find healthy ways to release the frustration and anger that is often associated with giving care. Exercising—even if it’s just walking a few miles a few times a week—can help with the frustration and anger and make you feel better. Do something that is meaningful to you. In other words take a little time for you. One way to do something meaningful is to become an advocate for those suffering with AD and their caregivers. The more you give, the better you feel.

When it comes right down to it, no one can predict your loved one’s progress through this insidious disease, and no one can tell you how to deal with caring for someone with it. The best that you can do is your best. You must involve others in caring for your loved one. Enlist the help of other family members and use the resources available to you in print or via the Internet and telephone. Always remember, you are not alone.

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