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12 Tips for Alzheimer’s Disease Caregivers

For family and loved ones of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, their role as caregiver is vitally important. This National Family Caregiver Awareness Month, consider these tips if you or a loved one assumes the important role of caregiver.

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1. Develop and Maintain a Regular Schedule

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Individuals with Alzheimer's disease benefit greatly from a regular schedule. Create a daily routine that includes regular times for waking up and going to bed, as well as ample time for meals, bathing, and dressing. Select activities based on your loved one's likes, dislikes, and abilities — including creative, intellectual, social, physical, and spiritual activities — allowing time for spontaneity as well.

2. Track Symptoms and Changes

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As Alzheimer's disease progresses, you may notice changes in your loved one's symptoms. Try to note specific shifts, such as forgetfulness or changes in sleep patterns, and record these changes in a journal or by using an app so you can discuss with your loved one's physician at your next appointment. It's important to remember that the disease, not the person with Alzheimer's disease, causes these changes.

3. Keep Your Loved One Active

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When caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease, it's important to help them maintain a sense of self. This can be accomplished by encouraging your loved one to continue to participate in and maintain certain hobbies they enjoy. Exercising can be a great way to spend time together, particularly because it can help ease some symptoms.

4. Encourage Independence

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There are simple, everyday tasks your loved one can do that can be rewarding if done independently. For example, helping with chores around the house can be helpful to you, and your loved one will feel they are contributing. Create meaningful activities based on things your loved one used to do and enjoy, and consider the time of day they may have the most success with a particular activity.

5. Plan Out Steps Before Beginning a Task

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Thinking through the steps required, and how best to communicate them, can help your loved one more smoothly complete a task. For example, an individual with Alzheimer's disease may not know what clothes are appropriate for the weather or occasion. To assist, think about laying out clothes in the order the person will put them on. If they require help, remind them in a sensitive tone which piece of clothing comes next, or hand them the item they need.

6. Make Simple Adjustments to Aid Communication

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As Alzheimer's disease progresses, an individual may lose their ability to find words, express thoughts, and follow conversations. Communicate with your loved one with dignity and respect, being careful not to speak as though he or she is not present. Call them by name and give a cue about your relationship to help orient and engage them in the discussion. Speak slowly and distinctly, with a relaxed tone of voice, turning negatives into positives — for example, "Let's go here" instead of "Don't go there."

7. Enlist the Help of Others

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It's important to understand your limits and not push yourself to do too much. Make a list and recruit others to pitch in. Two heads are better than one, and four hands can get things done in half the time. If someone asks you to do something that's beyond your resources, explain why you can't do it and don't feel guilty!

8. Find Support From Those Who Can Relate

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It can be helpful to connect with those who can relate to your day-to-day. A support group can reduce feelings of isolation by providing a sense of community, teaching you new caregiving tips, and helping you feel more empowered. There's always more to learn. There are in-person and online support groups, so no matter where you are, you can find support.

9. Put Your Mental and Physical Health First

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Being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's disease can be emotionally and physically taxing, and becomes more demanding as the disease progresses. It's critical that you take care of yourself in order to be able to fulfill the needs of your loved one. Remember to eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly.

10. Find Time to Relax

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Even though the role and responsibility of a caregiver never truly stops, it's important to take a step back and reserve a moment for yourself. Taking time to participate in activities you enjoy will give you a much-needed break to recharge your batteries and put you in a rested and restored position to continue to care for your loved one.

11. Give Yourself Credit

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It's important to remember that you're doing your best. Don't feel guilty if you aren't able to give or do more. Your loved one with Alzheimer's disease needs you, and you are there.

12. Research Treatment Options

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If you aren't already doing so, take time to review treatment options with your loved one's physician. Although there's currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease, there are treatments that may help slow the worsening of symptoms.

There is a treatment option available that may help slow the worsening of symptoms.

NAMZARIC (memantine HCI extended release and donepezil) is an available treatment option for patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease who are currently taking and can continue to take certain doses of both NAMENDA® (memantine HCl) or NAMENDA XR® (memantine HCI) extended release and donepezil HCl. NAMZARIC combines two medicines into one capsule taken once a day. With NAMZARIC, you may see a slowdown in the worsening of symptoms for a while. NAMZARIC does not change how the disease progresses. It should not be taken by anyone who has an allergy to memantine HCl, donepezil HCl, medicines that contain piperidines, or any of the ingredients in NAMZARIC. Please see additional Important Risk Information below. Please also see full Prescribing Information, including Patient Information.

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