Alzheimer’s Saga: Being a Stranger in Your Own Home

Nov 29th, 2010 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are two of the more insidious and troubling conditions facing many families today. Less discomfiting than Alzheimer’s, dementia has enough of its own characteristics and challenges to create stress in any family. Whatever the experience, increasingly these conditions affect the individual in ways that distance him or her from the family, to the point of not knowing names, being unable to recall any common experiences, and of course, in the case of Alzheimer’s, complete loss of memory for ordinary activity, e.g. eating, finding one’s way around in their home, and so on.

For those caring for the patient, it may feel very much like you are a stranger in your own home as well. If you are not known to the loved one who is stricken with Alzheimer’s, how utterly isolating and alienating that feels. The important decision that a caretaker must make is to not overdo your presence, availability and constant care and keeping of the patient. While that may seem like a must-do commitment, it is one that will contribute to major health issues for the caretaker. It is not uncommon for caretakers to so overdo their role, they end up dying before the patient.

Once it is clear that Alzheimer’s is the disease present and claiming a member of the household, it is essential some very deliberate, well grounded decisions be made. Those decisions need to be guided by a competent physician and others in Alzheimer’s support organizations who are equipped to know what lies ahead for a household experiencing the disease.  Some concrete suggestions include

  • Structure the day.
  • Provide consistent environmental cues about time of day.
  • Help the person to look forward to milestones of the day, such as bathing, dressing, meal preparation and eating, going outdoors, having visitors, getting ready for bed. Talk about the upcoming markers of the day.
  • Enlist the patient in accomplishing small tasks around the house or yard.
  • Keep the environment familiar. Put things in expected places. Novelty and surprise are not helpful to most Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Be near the person. Many dementia patients feel most comfortable if their caregiver is nearby. You do not have to talk or entertain them.
  • Create a routine around regular toilet visits, to avoid embarrassment, discomfort, or medical complications. The caregiver may have to help with hygiene. In late-stage Alzheimer’s, adult diapers are often needed.

A guide found on the Internet at has a comprehensive discussion of advice for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, including

  • Setting up Caregiving at home
  • Promoting comfort and safety
  • Engaging the patient in activities
  • Routines in Alzheimer’s care
  • Keeping the patient safe
  • Placing the patient in a facility

Readers are encouraged to bookmark the site and make use of the helpful suggestions offered.

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