Eat Small All Day Long
Contrary to what we believe, we do not need 3 main meals a day. Research shows that there is no major differences between 3 regular meals a day, 2 large meals a day or 5 little ones. In fact 5 little meals can help to regulate steady blood pressure which is an added bonus.
If you can only get your parent to eat small amounts, thats not a problem as long as this is at regular periods throughout the day. Its all about finding what works best for you.
Eating smaller portions can also benefit people living with dementia who have difficulty swallowing. Difficulty swallowing is a symptom of some types of dementia, including Alzheimers and Lewy Body Dementia.
Things To Try When Someone With Dementia Stops Recognising You
Often, people with dementia stop recognising those around them. Our dementia specialist Admiral Nurses share their advice on coping with this difficult stage.
As dementia progresses, some people stop recognising people they know even close friends and family. This can be upsetting for the person with dementia and for the people who are no longer recognised.
Not everyone with dementia will have difficulty recognising people, though for example, its more common in people with Alzheimers disease, and rarer in those with vascular dementia.
Sometimes, a lack of recognition of friends and family is a memory issue. A person with dementia may appear to travel back in time, reliving memories from when they were younger. They might expect grown-up children to be small again, or think their parents are still alive, or believe theyre still working, or in a relationship with a previous partner or spouse.
In other cases, the part of the brain that is responsible for recognising faces can become damaged. This is referred to as prosopagnosia or face blindness.
If a person with dementia is failing to recognise you or others for the first time, or seems distressed in your company, there may be another underlying cause, such as an infection, constipation or a reaction to medication changes. Its a good idea to make an appointment with their GP to rule out other causes that could be treatable.
Working With Hospital Staff
Remember that not everyone in the hospital knows the same basic facts about memory loss, Alzheimers disease, and related dementias. You may need to help teach hospital staff what approach works best with the person with Alzheimers, what distresses or upsets him or her, and ways to reduce this distress.
You can help the staff by providing them with a personal information sheet that includes the persons normal routine, how he or she prefers to be addressed , personal habits, likes and dislikes, possible behaviors , and nonverbal signs of pain or discomfort.
Help staff understand what the persons baseline is to help differentiate between dementia and acute confusion or delirium.
For more information on dealing with dementia and hospitalization, see the University of California, San Francisco, Memory and Aging Centers Tips for Hospitalization.
Dont Neglect Your Own Needs
By always focusing so diligently on your loved ones needs throughout the progression of their dementia, its easy to fall into the trap of neglecting your own welfare. If youre not getting the physical and emotional support you need, you wont be able to provide the best level of care, and youre more likely to become overwhelmed and suffer burnout.
Plan for your own care. Visit your doctor for regular checkups and pay attention to the signs and symptoms of excessive stress. Its easy to abandon the people and activities you love when youre mired in caregiving, but you risk your health and peace of mind by doing so. Take time away from caregiving to maintain friendships, social contacts, and professional networks, and pursue the hobbies and interests that bring you joy.
Incontinence Challenges With Dementia
Activities of daily living become more difficult with Alzheimers disease, particularly as the disease advances into later stages, and toileting presents a particular challenge. It is imperative that you help make going to the bathroom as easy as possible for your loved one, and control your reaction in the event of any accidents or resulting messes. Incontinence issues are embarrassing and, unfortunately, all too common for people with Alzheimers disease or related dementia.
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Exercise And Outdoor Activities
Communicate At Eye Level With Limited Distractions
Looking down at someone can make them feel suspicious or anxious and can change the power dynamic, Hartford says. The aim is to level the playing field.
Were dealing typically with older adults who have changes in hearing, Hartford says. They may really rely on reading lips, talking face-to-face.
Also, limit distractions that people with dementia can have a hard time tuning out. A television, radio or air conditioning unit can be distracting. Get into a quiet space when you want to communicate.
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How You Can Help
Let the person help with everyday tasks, such as:
These can lead to increased confusion and make the symptoms of dementia worse.
Common food-related problems include:
- forgetting what food and drink they like
- refusing or spitting out food
- asking for strange food combinations
These behaviours can be due to a range of reasons, such as confusion, pain in the mouth caused by sore gums or ill-fitting dentures, or swallowing problems .
Additional Resources For Dementia And Eating Issues
Read and download the NHS helpful Dementia Care Guide Support with eating and drinking . This guide talks about the common problems those living with dementia can have at meal time, and offers some tips to resolve them.
Another great tool that carers can use is The DMAT . The DMAT enables carers to assess, select interventions and generate a person centred care plan to support mealtime eating abilities and meal behaviours in people with advancing dementia. You can learn more about the DMAT and its benefits on their website.
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Why Is It Important To Keep Dementia Patients Engaged In Daily Activities
A daily routine with healthy activities is important for seniors of any age and especially vital for dementia patients. As dementia worsens over time, the person will find it more difficult to focus and struggle to learn new things. Having a routine in place early on helps give them structure that they find familiar. Additional benefits of having a routine that incorporates engaging activities for a loved one with dementia include:
How To Choose The Right Doctor
Okay, youve decided an appointment is in order. Chances are, your parent or partner hasnt been to a doctor in quite some time. You may be a little anxious about how long its been. Consequently, you may be feeling some internal pressure to get it right, thinking this is your one shot.
If you overthink this part, youll quickly get stuck in action paralysis.
Most folks think a geriatrician is the way to go, and it is the most frequently-sought specialty. Also, youll probably have better luck finding a unicorn. Feel free to Google your area, but dont be discouraged.
Next in popularity are internists, blessedly more bountiful. Primary care physicians, general practitioners, physicians assistants, and nurse practitioners are also very good choices.
Getting an accurate diagnosis is also important, and this is where neuropsychologists and neurologists come in handy. But if youre in a situation where your parent or partner hasnt been to a doctor in some time, start with a PCP or similar first.
A PCP can take a look at the big picture, address a host of potential concerns, and make necessary recommendations and referrals.
The main thing is to get an appointment, not get sucked into a research project. Ask friends whove been down this path for recommendations.
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The Importance Of Making Plans Before Theyre Needed
Most of the time, the initial signs of dementia are only seen in hindsight. The fact that my mother, a cradle Baptist, stopped going to church, counts as withdrawal from social activities, one of the 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimers disease, according to the Alzheimers Association. In hindsight, the indications were obvious: the purchase of questionable financial instruments demonstrated decreased or poor judgment, the time she thought her car was stolen indicated challenges solving problems, the bags of mail on the closet floor showed difficulty completing familiar tasks.
Its hard to be prepared for dementia, or in Moms case, Alzheimers disease, the most common form of dementia. It creeps up on you. It comes and goes as portions of the brain function as usual while others go awry. Its easy to write it off in its beginning stages as quirkiness or old age.
Cindy says that older adults should make plans before they need them and share those plans with family who may have to implement them some day.
My sister and I saw the writing on the wall, agreed to look for the next opportunity when Mom might be more open to our advice, and seized it. She was able to decide to trust us before she forgot who we were. Her horror of harming a child, combined with her trust in us, overcame her fear of moving. She allowed us to sort through her things, pack up the stuff shed need in the new place, and move her to an assisted living facility near my sister.
Diagnosing Dementia The Proper Way
In order to be diagnosed with a type of dementia, the patient should go through neurological evaluations and cognitive testing. Common symptoms to look out for include:
- Trouble completing everyday tasks such as cooking or cleaning
- Inability to find things that have been misplaced
- Confusion or disorientation, especially about the day or time
- Personality and mood changes
- Please try to eat this one spoon/forkful of ___________.
- Let me help you.
- What did you eat for dinner?
The questions above may trigger a distress behavior. If the person with dementia cannot remember what they had for breakfast, then why would you ask what they had for dinner? The idea is to give the person with dementia the chance for independent thinking without overwhelming demands.
For example, ask if they want a ham sandwich for a snack, which warrants a yes or no response, versus asking if they want a ham, turkey, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a snack. This gives the person with dementia control and minimizes frustration or anxiety when bombarded with too many choices.
The goal is to patiently work with them during their transitional period. For caregivers, it may be an undoubtedly overwhelming experience. But just imagine how the person with dementia must feel. Ideally we have to be in their world because they are no longer in ours. Their reality is real, and for us to say it is not will certainly cause a distress behavior at some point.
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From Nursing Doors To My Dad: When Dementia Became Personal
My personal experience in taking care of my dad with dementia was challenging. I was a caregiver who had to teach my mom how to interact and communicate with him. My mom still considered him to be her loving husband of 40 years, not acknowledging that his environment had changed. I also found myself talking to him as if he was the same dad Id known for 47 years. I know we all tend to forget things on a day-to-day basis, but what changed for my dad is when that forgetfulness was on a continuum with no remembrance of what was misplaced.
This behavior increased and thus warranted an evaluation for him to be diagnosed. Of course, the first reaction was denial from both of my parents. Then came reality as time progressed. I saw the distress behaviors when he was asked multiple questions at once and how my mom was doing everything for him, such as bathing, combing his hair, feeding him, etc. When I approached my mom, the conversation was about allowing him to do as much as he can for himself to avoid becoming so dependent.
Moving forward, we both saw the need for appropriate communication and how to modify those distress behaviors to produce positive health care outcomes. Although my dad is no longer with us, he has set the stage to teach, engage, and inspire health care providers to communicate and interact with people with dementia.
Nursing Programs at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Coping With Changes In Behavior And Personality
As well as changes in communication during the middle stages of dementia, troubling behavior and personality changes can also occur. These behaviors include aggressiveness, wandering, hallucinations, and eating or sleeping difficulties that can be distressing to witness and make your role as caregiver even more difficult.
Often, these behavioral issues are triggered or exacerbated by your loved ones inability to deal with stress, their frustrated attempts to communicate, or their environment. By making some simple changes, you can help ease your loved ones stress and improve their well-being, along with your own caregiving experience.
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Helping A Person With Dementia
If you’re a carer or friend of a person with a dementia, there are different ways to support them in their everyday life.
You can help by:
- remembering they are still the person and friend you may have known for a long time
- including them in group conversations
- asking them their opinion and not assuming you know what they want
- offering your support, they may not feel confident enough to approach you and may need your help
- being sensitive, for example, understanding and supporting their approach to living with the condition
- remembering they can still do the same things as you with a little help
Do Try To Be Pleasant
Caregivers are also humans who are prone to emotions like anger, stress, impatience, and irritation. Even when one goes through caregiver burnout, it is best that the patient does not get wind of it. It is better to step out of the room and try some breathing exercises to calm down before going back to deal with the dementia patient. Where possible, shelve the bad feelings and try and deal with them later. Dementia patients deal with a lot and they do not need more on their plate if they are to lead fulfilling and happy lives.
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Safety Inside The Home For People With Dementia
- Arrange furniture simply and consistently and keep the environment uncluttered.
- Remove loose rugs and seal carpet edges that may be safety hazards.
- Install night-lights in the hallways and in the toilet that may be useful to help a person find their way to the bathroom at night.
- Dispose of, or safely store, all old medications and hazardous materials such as kerosene.
- Remove electric blankets and hot water bottles that can be a safety hazard for a person with dementia.
- Install safety switches, which are now recommended, in homes.
- Use hot water jugs and other appliances with automatic cut-off mechanisms.
- Replace more dangerous forms of heating, such as bar radiators, with safer heating options, such as column heaters.
- Check appliances like heaters and toasters to make sure they do not present any safety hazards.
- Replace long electrical cords on appliances with coiled or retractable cords.
- Consider thermostats to control the temperature of water that comes out of the hot water taps.
- Check that smoke detectors are fully functional a person with dementia may need someone else to check the battery and make sure the alarm is loud enough.
Helpful Daily Activities For Dementia Patients: 50 Expert Tips And Suggestions To Keep Your Loved One Engaged
Staying active and engaged is beneficial for both physical and cognitive health, so its particularly important for people with dementia or Alzheimers disease to engage in daily activities. Some activities have proven to be particularly helpful for those with dementia, such as games, exercise and outdoor activities, and music and art, as well as maintaining day-to-day routines. Providing structure and routine for a person living with dementia helps to maintain their cognitive function, sense of security, and can calm anxious or aggressive behaviors. It also helps provide a sense of control over their day and their environment, especially for those in the early stages of the disease. For those in the end stage of dementia, many of these activities are often one of the few ways they can still engage their memories and communicate.
To help you keep your loved one busy and actively engaged in meaningful activities, here are 50 tips from caregivers, memory care facility administrators, dementia and Alzheimers experts, and others who have experience in working with those living with dementia. Keep in mind that everyone enjoys different activities, and you should try the activities that best fit your loved ones personality, needs, and situation. These 50 helpful daily activities are not listed in order of importance, but they are categorized to help you quickly find the activities best suited for your loved one.
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