If you are diagnosed with Alzheimers disease (AD), it is important that you and your family members begin to make plans and decisions as soon as possible regarding your future care and treatment. You may eventually begin to lose the ability to do some tasks for yourself and will need a caregiver to help you. This caregiver may be a family member, friend, or hired health professional.

In the vast majority of cases, the primary responsibility for the care of patients with AD falls on a family member, usually a spouse. Over time, as the condition progresses, the spouse caregiver will find it more and more difficult to meet the needs of his or her loved one without additional help. Eventually, care becomes so burdensome that placement in a nursing home may become necessary.

A study of spouse caregivers of patients with AD showed the value of caregiver support. Nursing home admissions were delayed in those spouses receiving counseling, encouragement of weekly support group participation, and the availability of telephone counseling at any time.

Lifestyle changes that can help you function as the disease progresses fall into two categories:

    
  • Planning for future caregiving and treatment
  • Managing symptoms and behavior
  • Planning Future Caregiving and Treatment

    As a person with Alzheimers disease, your abilities will gradually decline. You will be unable to address planning, caregiving, and treatment issues. The following guidelines apply to you, as long as you are able to be involved in planning, and to your family and caregiver.

    Day-to-Day Care

    A study found that cognitive function and brain efficiency may be improved by simple lifestyle changes such as:

        
  • Healthy eating (such as five small, well-balanced meals per day)
  • Exercise (such as daily walks)
  • Stress reduction techniques (such as relaxation exercises, such as meditation )
  • Memory exercises (such as doing crossword puzzles and brainteasers)
  • Researchers hypothesize that such improvements may delay the onset of Alzheimers disease and perhaps even lower the risk of developing the disease. Talk to your doctor about how you can incorporate these changes into your routine.

    As the disease progresses, though, your moods, capabilities, and behavior will change. That is why it is important for you to make arrangements for daily care, learn how to adapt your home environment for safety, and research available community services. These steps, when done early, will help make the transition smoother for you and your caregiver

    Healthcare Providers and Facilities

    Although healthcare facilities may not be needed immediately, it is important to research your options. This way, you or your caregiver can find a place that matches your philosophy of care, location, and financial capacity.

    Managing Alzheimers Symptoms and Behavior

    As the disease progress, your abilities will decline, leaving you unable to address a number of issues on your own. Thus, the following general guidelines are directed toward families and caregivers.

    Use Memory Aids

    Memory aids may be very useful in the early stages of Alzheimers disease and may allow a person with Alzheimers disease to remain independent longer. Some examples include:

        
  • Writing out a list of the day’s activities
  • Posting instructions on how to do simple tasks, such as using the telephone
  • Writing out important phone numbers, and keeping them in one or more familiar places
  • Writing out the address and directions to the home and keeping them in a wallet at all times
  • When to Contact Your Doctor

    You or your caregiver should notify your doctor of any major changes or deterioration of behavior or symptoms. Let your doctor know of any adverse effects of medications.