How Home Health Care Can Help a Patient with Alzheimer’s
When your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it seems like everything changes in an instant. It’s normal to feel heavy emotions and to wonder what happens next. For example, you may be questioning if your loved one will still be able to live in their own home and for how long, and how much help they may need while also maintaining some level of independence and dignity.
Home healthcare provides supplementary care services in a patient’s own residence, which can ease the burden you may feel in having to be the primary caregiver. Skilled, compassionate nurses, therapists, and home health care aides are trained to manage your loved one’s medical needs, provide physical and occupational therapy, help your loved one with daily activities such as bathing and dressing, as well as communicate with patience and effectiveness. Here’s how home health care can specifically benefit patients with Alzheimer’s:
- Bathing. For an Alzheimer’s patient, bathing can pose a number of challenges and risks that may feel overwhelming to you as a caregiver. A home health care aide can evaluate how often the patient needs a full bath or shower versus a sponge bath and is able to maximize safety in the bathing environment. They are also skilled in letting the patient know what is happening during every step of the bath or shower to reduce surprises, confusion, or fear and provide a warm and calm bathing experience.
- Eating. Meal preparation and eating bring with it many challenges as well. A patient with Alzheimer’s may have a limited appetite or forget to eat altogether, or they may have trouble getting around in their own kitchen, finding appropriate food items or snacks, and preparing them properly. A home healthcare aide can supervise meal preparation and eat by limiting noise and distractions for the patient, helping to prepare the right portion sizes, and finding ways to serve meals that are easy for the patient to eat independently.
- Dressing. Figuring out what to wear, handling buttons or zippers, and simply putting on or removing clothing often creates frustration or confusion for a patient with Alzheimer’s. A home healthcare aide can help with the patient’s daily task of getting dressed by encouraging independence first. This can mean laying aside a limited number of clothing items for the patient to choose from and arranging them in order of how they need to be put on. As the patient is dressing, the aide can also offer instruction if necessary without making the patient feel helpless.
- Exercise and activities. Although Alzheimer’s is a serious and progressive illness, in the early stages a patient is still able to enjoy physical activity and exercise. A home healthcare aide or therapist can take the patient for walks around the neighborhood or engage them in a few simple exercises at home to keep them active. Aides or therapists can utilize occupational therapy with the patient to better manage activities or chores around the home, such as watering plants or doing laundry. And if the patient requires specific physical therapies, home health care can provide these types of rehabilitative services as well.
- Medical supervision. An Alzheimer’s patient may have other health conditions that need to be managed as well, which may feel outside your comfort zone as a caregiver. A home healthcare nurse or aide can supervise daily medications, provide pain management, manage and care for chronic illnesses such as diabetes or injuries, coordinate home medical supplies, and monitor vital signs and weight as appropriate.
- Daily routine. Even if it varies a bit from time to time, simply having a routine is important to a patient with Alzheimer’s. A routine creates a sense of familiarity and structure for the patient, helps them know what to expect, and allows them to participate in simple tasks in their own home in a safe, manageable way. Whether the patient receives just a few hours of care per week or several hours of care every day, the trusted presence of a home health care aide and the help and compassion they provide can become an invaluable part of the patient’s daily or weekly experience.
Seeking in-home assistance should always feel like an option to you and a loved one who may be newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Ultimately, the goal of home health care is to make the patient feel comfortable while also helping to maintain their independence as long as possible while they are still able to live at home.