Nearly 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease , and that number is expected to increase to nearly 14 million by 2050. Aside from the disease's burden to the patient, it's also a family caregivers. According to the Alzheimer's Association, 16.1 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer's or other dementias , accounting for an estimated 18.4 billion hours of care

As the number of adults with Alzheimer's or other dementias continues to grow, geriatricians at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to educate both patients and their loved ones about to maintain a safe and supportive living environment, while also providing solutions for caregivers to use when caring for the patient.

"When approaching dementia families, I followed the safe and healthy rule," said Andrew Duxbury, MD, a geriatrician in the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Careat UAB. "Everything we do needs to make the patient safe and the family sane. In terms of safety, it boils down into the big four: meals, wheels, bills, and pills." Duxbury says that one is provided for under the four categories of meals, wheels, bills, and pills are the most important way to make sure someone is cared for and safe.

Meals

"You need to consider whether the person is capable of preparing food, eating healthy and appropriate amounts of food, and you have the awareness that they need to eat," Duxbury said. "If any link in that chain breaks, the person may not eat."

Every person's experience with Alzheimer's is different, but there are a few things caregivers can do to allow someone to maintain their independence in the kitchen while also making sure they are safe.

"The biggest issue is leaving things on the stove and forgetting to turn the oven off, but if cooking is part of someone's routine, let them cook on their own while monitoring what they are doing from another room. Would you like to go to the next room?

Another option is to provide choices. For example, if it is your mom, ask her if she wants to cook things that can be made in the microwave or require minimal prep. You may also think about removing scissors and knives from the countertop and drawers, put labels on the cabinets, and disguise the garbage disposal switches to prevent someone from turning it on accidentally.

According to Duxbury, it is not safe for patients to prepare food on the stove or in the oven in late dementia. It is important for the caregivers to have a conversation with their loved one's doctor about the stage of the disease to evaluate their safety in the kitchen.

Wheels

Losing the independence driving provides can be upsetting. It is important to acknowledge the person's feelings and preserve his or her independence while ensuring the person's safety and the safety of others independence while ensuring the person's safety and the safety of others. Giving up the keys is one of the biggest challenges to the caregiver and their loved one when it comes to dementia, especially if that person is a man, according to Duxbury.

"A lot of times, an older man may just want to have the keys, feel them in his pocket and see the car in the driveway," he said. "You can let him have the keys, just not the key to the current car." Give him the keys to a different car or remove the car key from his set of keys This way, he has the keys, hears them jingle in his pocket and sees his car, but can not go anywhere. "

Another solution is to reduce the need to drive by having medications, groceries or meals delivered to the home. Once one is unable to independently drive or get to places on his or her own, the caregivers need to ensure there is another source of transportation, especially for doctor's appointments.

Pills

Aging adults often take multiple medications, which can lead to adverse effects. One of the most important roles of the caregiver is to ensure their loved one is not mismanaging medications, going to doctor's appointments and keeping an eye on their other health issues.

According to Duxbury, most people with dementia think they are fine. That is why it is crucial for caregivers to stay on top of their loved one's health. "Families need to remember that a person with dementia does not live in the same reality that we live in," Duxbury explained. "They live in a reality of their brain's dementia." These individuals may have completely different perceptions of the world around them and what it means: We have not had a good way to enter their reality. "

To help a loved one manage their medications, set up a pillbox where you put a week's worth of pills, sorted by day. This way you can check to see if the person took the medications. You can also set up a timer in your loved one's home to remind him or her to take your pills. Some versions of pillboxes have timers and locks you can set to prevent your loved one from taking your medications from the wrong day.pill box where you put a week's worth of pills, sorted by day.

The caregiver should also have a master list of medications taken, lock up or store out of reach of medications, and understand what each drug is for and the proper dosing schedule and side effects.

Alternative solutions

Helping someone with Alzheimer's or dementia stay content in their environment is an important role for the caregiver. "Human beings like things to stay the same," Duxbury said. "We develop a pattern we like." The best thing you can do with someone with dementia is to understand that it is real and it is happening and be willing to make changes as that process goes along to try to keep the individual and life patterns in sync as much as possible. "

For example, if a caregiver's mother was always responsible for caring for the house, but she is no longer able to do that and does not realize that she is not keeping up with the housework, suggesting that she will hire a maid may upset her because, in her reality, she does not need one. Instead of telling you a maid has been hired, couch it in a different way.

"One of the things I tell families to use with older women, in particular, is to say, 'is not it great you are now old enough that you can enjoy life and have a companion to help you make it so much better?' "Duxbury said. "Now the mother thinks that the maid, who in her mind is a companion, is her choice and is there to keep her company, not there to help her do something she thinks she is already doing."

Frustration and irritation are common symptoms of dementia. When a person can not remember or is constantly confused, they may become frustrated, fearful and even try to fight the changes they are experiencing. Instead of trying to rationalize with them and also getting frustrated, try to give them an activity to distract them.

"When most people are getting frustrated, they are usually easily redirected, they just need to be given some other task or something to work on. They become upset, they are redirected and engaging in a safe activity.

Providing concrete choices is another way to help someone feel independent and valued. "Give them choices they can make," Duxbury said. "As people become more demented, their ability to make negative choices gets damaged, but they can make concrete choices."

Instead of asking your mother what she wants to wear today, ask her if she wants to wear a blue dress, green dress or red dress. If you are at dinner with your father, do not ask him what he wants to eat off the menu.

"If you put the menu in front of someone with dementia, it might as well be another language," Duxbury said. "Instead, say 'you like chicken, fish and pasta." Which one would you like to eat? ' Then let him choose from those options. "and pasta. Which one would you like to eat?" Then let him choose from those options. "

Stay Sane

Caring for someone with dementia is a top priority, but the sanity of the caregiver is equally important. "The caregivers need to get away from their patients," Duxbury suggested. "There has to be some sort of respite built into the system works, they have to break from the patient and take time to take care of themselves."

Duxbury suggests adult day care centers or home health care . This way, the caregiver is able to take time to do something on his or her own. "It's important the caregiver does something I enjoy, not something for the patient-like going to the grocery store or picking up prescriptions ," he said. "Do something that makes you feel good and gives you a break from caring for your loved one."