Supporting A Spouse During An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis? What Should You Know?

If your spouse or partner has recently been diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer's Disease (AD), you may be at a loss as far as what to expect from his or her mental state over the coming months -- as well as what you'll need to do to provide assistance. How can you help your spouse with his or her changing needs during this time? Read on to learn more about being a care partner during these early stages of memory loss, as well as what you may want to do to prepare for when your spouse needs additional care down the line.

What should you know about helping your spouse in early-stage AD? 

In many cases, a diagnosis of AD can feel like a sucker punch for those who think they are just dealing with a little forgetfulness caused by hormonal fluctuations or sleep deprivation. Your spouse may feel fine much of the time, and your biggest struggle could be knowing when to step in to assist and when to stand back. 

The first steps you and your spouse should take will involve evaluating which daily activities might require a bit more assistance. If your spouse is still driving, working, or volunteering outside the home, he or she may want to continue performing these activities solo -- on the other hand, you may want to step in to assist with (or handle on your own) tasks that require concentration or require the performance of several steps in succession, like running errands or paying bills. Keep an eye out for any frustration your spouse may be experiencing, and be willing to step in to defuse the situation or provide help when needed.

You and your spouse may also want to develop a code word or phrase that can signal to you that he or she needs help -- or that he or she would rather be left alone. This can help you avoid the dreaded "hovering" that can sometimes make AD patients feel like children while still remaining accessible and able to help as needed. 

What can you do to prepare for your spouse needing round-the-clock care?

In many cases, particularly if your spouse was diagnosed with AD at a very early stage of the disease, you may be able to get along with minimal accommodations for years. However, in other cases, the symptoms of AD may progress more quickly than expected, and if you haven't begun to make preparations in anticipation of long-term care early in the process, you could be caught scrambling for backup as your spouse's daily needs eclipse your ability to provide direct care. 

Your best long-term care options may depend on the handicap-friendliness of your home. In some cases, it might be more comfortable for you and your spouse to have a visiting nurse come in several times per day (or even stay an entire shift) to assist your spouse with feeding, bathing, and other personal care matters. In other cases, the level of in-home care needed might be too much for you to handle even with nursing assistance, making inpatient nursing care or hospice care a better option. 

When seeking a nursing home or care provider for your spouse with AD, you'll want to consider only those who specialize in memory care. Even skilled nurses may struggle when dealing with someone whose memories from decades past are much clearer than those from five minutes ago, or who become easily agitated or upset when faced with a change in routine. Those who have specific training in memory care processes are better able to relate to your spouse and provide compassionate care, helping make a physically and emotionally difficult process just a little less painful. Check out a facility like Alta Ridge Communities for more information.