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Take care of yourself

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Continued from last week

In the second of a two-part article on Alzheimer’s, Dr Vihan Sanyal has suggestions for caregivers

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is a challenge and can be physically and emotionally draining. Over time, as the disease progresses, most people with Alzheimer's are likely to lose the ability to take care of themselves. Keeping the patient comfortable, following a schedule of the medications and doctor’s appointments, and supporting them with their physical needs of grooming, bathing and so on can all start to take a toll on the caregiver. Often the caregivers neglect their own physical and emotional needs as their focus of care is constantly on their family member who has Alzheimer’s.

In your role as a caregiver, do what you can to be well informed and prepared, and ask for help and support when you need it.

It often proves to be a challenge to have a meaningful conversation with someone with Alzheimer’s. In the later stages, patients often lose their ability to speak. Caretakers usually restrict themselves to simple questions to which the patient can give a definitive answer.

It often becomes hard to chew food and to swallow. This raises the risk of choking. The meals and snacks will need to be cut into small pieces or mashed up. There always poses a danger of a patient becoming malnourished or dehydrated if their body does not receive the required nutrients. Soluble vitamins and protein supplements are often advocated in such cases to ensure that the patient is well hydrated and receive the required nutrients.

In-patient care in a tertiary institution may be required from time-to-time as various complications arise from the condition.

Here are some things that caregivers need to keep in mind.


Take frequent breaks Ask other family members, friends, or paid help to take charge of the patient for you. If possible, work out a routine with them. This will allow you to focus on yourself and on your life. Taking out time to relax and unwind frequently is important for you and for the person you are caring for.

Read up and be informed about Alzheimer’s It is crucial for caregivers to know as much information about the disease as possible. This will help them to prepare themselves for changes in the patient’s behaviour. Speak with other caregivers and learn coping strategies from them.

Don’t do everything for the patient  Recognise the things patients can do themselves and what they need help with. It is important for people with Alzheimer’s to feel that they are able to do certain things on their own. Step in and help them only when required.

Don’t forget to live your life too Try to follow your regular routine as possible. If you have a habit of going to the gym or for yoga classes, then continue to do so. Catch up with friends and attend social functions. It is imperative for the caregiver to keep physically and mentally fit.

Seek help of a friend or a professional therapist Speaking with a trusted and empathetic friend or a mental health professional can offer you the needed space to vent your frustrations and limitations. This is normal and expected while caring for someone with an illness like Alzheimer’s.

Discuss all legal matters early It is best to discuss and take necessary action with matters such as legal will and power of attorney at the initial stages of the illness. It is important to know what the patient wishes to see being done.

Dr Vihan Sanyal is a psychotherapist and a public speaker. He has introduced the approach of  MNLP – Mindfulness Neuro Linguistic Programming.

Often caregivers neglect their own physical and emotional needs as their focus of care is constantly on a family member who has Alzheimer’s.


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Aries (Mar 21 - Apr 20)You are likely to remain careful and watchful today, foretells Ganesha. And because you'll be invited to parties and other social events, your enthusiasm will remain buoyant. You will also strike the right balance between business and pleasure, says Ganesha.
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