It’s hard to care for someone with Alzheimer’s if you don’t know about the disease or its progression. One of the most important things that you can do for both of your sakes is to educate yourself about the disease and what you can expect. It will be much easier to care for your loved one if you know why they are acting the way that they are, such as wandering around or stripping off their adaptive clothing for women.
Stay patient and positive.
Having a loved one receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be scary and overwhelming, and you may not know how to help them. Thankfully, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, especially in the early stages of the disease, is all about common sense and compassion. In addition to more practical steps, such as purchasing dementia clothing, here are eight ways that you can care for someone with Alzheimer’s in a heartfelt way:
Educate yourself about Alzheimer’s.
Even if your loved one’s Alzheimer’s has progressed to the point where they don’t really understand what’s going on, they will still be able to pick up on emotional cues and react to your mood accordingly. Thus, staying patient and positive with them — even when they are agitated, angry and/or confused — is key to keeping them calm and de-escalating situations quickly. It’s totally normal to get frustrated, but save your venting for when they aren’t around.
Focus on their feelings.
Speaking of emotions, it’s really important to validate the feelings of people who have Alzheimer’s. Just because they can’t articulate their emotions doesn’t mean they don’t feel them, and it can be incredibly difficult for them to have their emotions ignored by the people around them. Tell them that you are sorry they are frustrated or upset and then try to distract them with an activity.
Build a daily routine.
Daily routines are absolutely essential for people with Alzheimer’s. Even if they no longer have a short-term memory, they do have an unconscious understanding of routines, and keeping them on a daily schedule will help stop them from becoming disoriented. If you must make alterations to the routine, introduce changes slowly so your loved one can get adjusted to them in the least upsetting way possible.
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Make the environment familiar.
Familiar locations are very soothing to people with Alzheimer’s, so try to keep their physical environment the same as much as possible. If you are moving them into your home or a memory care facility, take as many familiar objects with you as you can, including bedding and family photo albums. These objects will give them a sense of stability and help keep them grounded in an unfamiliar place.
Do their favorite activities.
Most people with later stage Alzheimer’s are not capable of the planning needed to initiate family activities. However, many of them do enjoy joining in on activities that other people are already doing. Start doing an activity that you know they love, such as putting together an easy jigsaw puzzle or watching a familiar TV show, and invite them to join you. They will probably be happy to do so!
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Reduce excess noise.
Excessive or loud noises can be distracting and even upsetting for people with Alzheimer’s, so try to keep it to a minimum. For instance, if you are trying to talk to them, then turn off any music or TV you have playing in the background. Just because you can tune out the noise doesn’t mean they can, so try to keep these noises to a minimum.
Give them simple choices.
Even when your loved one is in the middle of Alzheimer’s, giving them simple choices can help preserve a sense of agency. Two options are usually the most they can handle, and presenting them visually can help — such as holding up two shirts and asking if they want to wear the blue one or the red one today. If you must ask a verbal question, phrase it as a “yes or no” query so they can give you a one word answer.
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