If you are caring for someone living with Alzheimer's disease, you know that as the disease progresses your loved one's ability to manage daily tasks will decline. Consider practical tips to help him or her maintain a sense of independence and dignity as he or she becomes dependent on you and other family members or caregivers.
A person with Alzheimer's disease might become agitated when once-simple tasks become difficult. To limit challenges and ease frustration:
- Schedule wisely. Establish a routine to make each day less agitating and confusing. People with Alzheimer's disease can still learn and follow routines. Often it is best to schedule tasks, such as bathing or medical appointments, when the person is most alert and refreshed. Allow some flexibility within the routine for spontaneous activities.
- Take your time. Expect things to take longer than they used to. Allow the person with Alzheimer's disease to have frequent breaks. Schedule more time for tasks so that you don't need to hurry him or her.
- Involve the person. Allow your loved one to do as much as possible with the least amount of assistance. For example, people with Alzheimer's disease might be able to set the table with the help of visual cues or dress independently if you lay out clothes in the order they go on.
- Provide choices. Fewer options are better but give the person with Alzheimer's disease choices every day. For example, provide two outfits to choose from, ask if he or she prefers a hot or cold beverage, or ask if he or she would rather go for a walk or see a movie.
- Provide simple instructions. People with Alzheimer's disease best understand clear, one-step communication.
- Reduce distractions. Turn off the TV and minimize other distractions at mealtime and during conversations to make it easier for the person with Alzheimer's disease to focus.
Over time, a person living with dementia will become more dependent. But there's a lot you can do to maximize the quality of your interactions and reduce frustration. Try to stay flexible and adapt your routine and expectations as needed.
For example, if your loved one starts insisting on wearing the same outfit every day, consider buying a few identical outfits. If bathing is met with resistance, consider doing it less often. Relaxing your expectations can go a long way toward self-care and well-being.
Create a safe environment.
Alzheimer's disease impairs judgment and problem-solving skills, increasing a person's risk of injury. To promote safety:
- Prevent falls. Avoid scatter rugs, extension cords, and any clutter that could cause your loved one to trip or fall. Install handrails or grab bars in critical areas.
- Use locks. Install locks on cabinets that contain anything potentially dangerous, such as medicine, alcohol, guns, toxic cleaning substances, dangerous utensils, and tools.
- Check water temperature. Lower the thermostat on the hot-water heater to prevent burns.
- Take fire safety precautions. Keep matches and lighters out of reach. If your loved one smokes, make sure he or she does so only with supervision. Make sure a fire extinguisher is accessible, and the smoke alarms have fresh batteries.
Focus on individualized care.
Each person with Alzheimer's disease will experience its symptoms and progression differently. Consequently, caregiving techniques need to vary. Tailor these practical tips to your loved one's individual needs.
Remember, your loved one's responses and behaviors might be different from what they used to be. Patience and flexibility—along with good self-care and the support of friends and family—can help you deal with the challenges and frustrations ahead.
Publication Date: 2000-09-25