For many people with Alzheimer’s, an eventual loss of independence is inevitable. The effects of the disease, which include memory loss, confusion, difficulty communicating, and emotional disturbances, make it difficult for people suffering from the disease to care for themselves. In-home care or relocating to a residential care facility are often necessary in order to ensure safety and comfort for Alzheimer’s patients as the disease progresses. Loved ones and professional caregivers can help assist those with Alzheimer’s to perform daily tasks. Despite the need for outside help, people with Alzheimer’s can greatly benefit from maintaining a degree of independence, especially in the early stages of the disease.
While family members and caregivers may have the best of intentions when helping patients perform daily tasks, it is possible to create “excess dependency.” It can be difficult to watch someone struggle with a task. This may cause personal frustration and an overwhelming need to intervene – even when the person with Alzheimer’s is capable of performing the task themselves with minimal guidance. Rather than immediately taking control when difficulty arises, caregivers can instead offer gentle encouragement and verbal cues. Breaking up larger jobs into smaller, simple steps can make things much easier for the patient. Activities such as meal preparation, dressing, and bathing can all be modified to accommodate the abilities of the specific Alzheimer’s sufferer. Remaining patient and open as a caregiver allows those with Alzheimer’s to maintain a sense of independence and involvement in their own care.
Remaining active and engaged with daily life is essential to preserving a sense of meaning and self-worth among Alzheimer’s suffers. A sudden transition from complete independence to complete dependency can lead to depression and worsen symptoms of the disease. Promoting independence for as long as possible creates a gradual transition from independent living to dependence on caregivers. Making sure to involve Alzheimer’s patients in daily life to the extent that their condition allows is a healthy way to foster a personal sense of meaning and maintain a good quality of life.