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Caregiver’s Tool to Prioritize

Last Updated: April 2, 2013

When the person you care for is affected by any kind of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's disease, things come up on an almost daily basis that need to be addressed. Many family caregivers feel they need to "fix" every problem. The fact is there are many events or behaviors that occur only once, for a short period of time, or are not problematic enough to require energy be invested into trying to solve them. Here is a quick list that caregivers can use to determine whether an issue is one that should be addressed or let go.

Safety: Does it or could it impact anyone's safety?
Health: Does it or could it impact anyone's health?
Bug: Does it just bug you?

Once you identify the category you can determine which ones really need to be addressed. Anything that falls into the safety area should take top priority, anything that falls into the health category would take the next priority, and anything that falls into the bug category needs to be further evaluated.

Examples:

While there are many, one example of a safety issue would be wandering. If the person you care for has begun to wander, clearly their safety may be at risk. This is an area that you will need to address immediately.

An example of a health issue would be refusal to take prescribed medications. In this case you might want to have a discussion with the physician about the necessity of the medications or the possibility of chew-able, crushable, or liquid replacements.

There are countless examples of bugs - anything from saying inappropriate things, to eating with their hands, to constantly sorting things. Bugs obviously have the most potential of being let go, but this is easier said than done. Assess who is really being bothered. Does it bother other people in a social setting, does it bother people at home, or does it just bother you? As painful as it is to watch the person you care about become someone you no longer know, it can do more damage to get caught up in trying to make certain behaviors stop. Instead, it may be better to learn to either let things go or to reduce the exposure to those who are bothered by it. One example of this would be to start by only serving and ordering foods that are appropriate to eat with the hands when using utensils no longer makes sense to someone.

As the caregiver you have many new burdens. Sometimes learning to let go of some of the "bugs" can save your energy and your sanity.

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