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How To Help Someone With Alzheimer’s Disease

Helping Someone With Everyday Tasks

What activities can help someone with Alzheimer’s stay active and engaged?

In the early stages of dementia, many people are able to enjoy life in the same way as before their diagnosis.

But as symptoms get worse, the person may feel anxious, stressed and scared at not being able to remember things, follow conversations or concentrate.

It’s important to support the person to maintain skills, abilities and an active social life. This can also help how they feel about themselves.

Forgetting Recent Conversations Or Events

People with dementia may find it hard to remember recent conversations and events, even in the early stages. Keep in mind that the person isnt ‘being difficult’.

Due to the damage that is causing the persons dementia, their brain may not have stored the information. This means that they cannot bring back the memory of the event or discussion because they may not have that memory.

Tip : Deal With Anxiety And Depression

Depression and anxiety are common among early stage Alzheimers patients. Symptoms such as withdrawal, agitation, feelings of worthlessness, and changes in your sleeping patterns can make dementia symptoms worse, though, and limit your independence. Dont ignore symptoms. As well as counseling and medication, there are plenty of self-help steps that can help you overcome anxiety and depression.

  • Learning how to challenge anxious thoughts and develop a more balanced way of looking at your new situation can help you come to terms with your diagnosis and ease anxiety.
  • Opening up and talking about your fears and other emotions with someone who makes you feel safe and supported can help boost your mood.
  • Exercising regularly, eating well, and improving your sleep are also proven ways to help improve depression and anxiety symptoms.

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Identify Sources Of Help

Once you have learned what to expect from the disease, look for sources of help, such as local, state, and federal government services adult day care and respite servicesassistance with home caregivingfor yourself. Make a list of these resources and keep it in a handy place. Find and join a support group, and dont be afraid to ask for help from your family and friends.

Keep Things Simpleand Other Tips

What is Dementia?

Caregivers cannot stop Alzheimers-related changes in personality and behavior, but they can learn to cope with them. Here are some tips:

  • Keep things simple. Ask or say one thing at a time.
  • Have a daily routine, so the person knows when certain things will happen.
  • Reassure the person that he or she is safe and you are there to help.
  • Focus on his or her feelings rather than words. For example, say, You seem worried.
  • Dont argue or try to reason with the person.
  • Try not to show your frustration or anger. If you get upset, take deep breaths and count to 10. If its safe, leave the room for a few minutes.
  • Use humor when you can.
  • Give people who pace a lot a safe place to walk. Provide comfortable, sturdy shoes. Give them light snacks to eat as they walk, so they dont lose too much weight, and make sure they have enough to drink.
  • Try using music, singing, or dancing to distract the person.
  • Ask for help. For instance, say, Lets set the table or I need help folding the clothes.

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Cope With Changes In Communication

As your loved ones Alzheimers or dementia progresses, youll notice changes in how they communicate. They may have trouble finding words, substitute one word for another, repeat the same things over and over, or become easily confused. Increased hand gestures, losing their train of thought, and even inappropriate outbursts are all common as well.

Even if your loved one has trouble maintaining a conversationor less interest in starting oneits important to encourage social interaction. Making them feel safe rather than stressed will make communication easier, so try to manage your own frustration levels.

Be patient. If your loved one has difficulty recalling a word, for example, allow them time. Getting anxious or impatient will only inhibit their recall. Gently supply the word or tell the person that you can come back to it later.

Be aware of your body language. Your loved one responds to your facial expression, tone of voice, and nonverbal cues as much as the words you choose. Make eye contact, stay calm, and keep a relaxed, open posture.

Speak slowly and clearly. Give one direction or ask one question at a time, use short sentences, and give your loved one more time to process whats being said. Find a simpler way to say the same thing if it wasnt understood the first time.

Maintain respect. Dont use patronizing language, baby talk, or sarcasm. It can cause hurt or confusion.

Getting Help With Alzheimer’s Caregiving

Some caregivers need help when the person is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Other caregivers look for help when the person is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s. It’s okay to seek help whenever you need it.

As the person moves through the stages of Alzheimer’s, he or she will need more care. One reason is that medicines used to treat Alzheimer’s disease can only control symptoms they cannot cure the disease. Symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion, will get worse over time.

Because of this, you will need more help. You may feel that asking for help shows weakness or a lack of caring, but the opposite is true. Asking for help shows your strength. It means you know your limits and when to seek support.

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How Do I Deal With Memory Problems

As it gets harder to remember things, you can use a few strategies to help your memory. You may have to try a few different ones before you find what works for you. To start:

  • Keep a notebook or smartphone with you to keep track of important information, phone numbers, names, ideas you have, appointments, your address, and directions to your home.
  • Put sticky notes around the house with reminders for yourself.
  • Label cupboards and drawers with words or pictures that describe their contents.
  • Ask a friend or family member to call and remind you of important things you need to do during the day, like taking medication and going to appointments.
  • Keep photos of people you see often, and label the photos with their names.

Should You Keep Trying To Communicate

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Family members may frequently ask, How often should I visit?, or, Should I visit at all, because they dont seem to be understanding what were saying, most of the time they dont seem to recognize me, etc. Caregivers can encourage family members to visit because its important to them. Also, the person with memory loss may catch some things on some days, and if family members can make the interaction a pleasant moment, it can be rewarding for both.

Communication amongst family becomes particularly difficult when the person with dementia and/or Alzheimers doesn’t recognize family members anymore. In this situation, a spouse or children can think that it doesnt do any good to go talk to the personthat anyone could talk to him/her because they dont remember who they are. But there is a richness that happens because of family history together, something that can only come from people that have been family or friends for a long time.

The type of communication families can get out of visits can be pulled from the strength of the patient and/or loved ones long-term memories. They can still talk about the past, and for family members, to hear those things are perhaps a worthwhile gift.

Even though the patient and/or loved one can no longer communicate the way they used to, there are still other ways to enjoy time together. There is beauty and simplicity in being in the present moment.

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How Do I Avoid Getting Lost

You may not be able to find your way around as well as you used to, even in familiar places. Take steps to prepare, such as:

  • Ask someone to go with you when you go out. Take directions with you, even if youâre going somewhere youâve been before.
  • Ask for help if you need it. If you want to, you can explain that you have a memory problem.

What Is Known About Caregiving For A Person With Alzheimers Disease Or Another Form Of Dementia

People with Alzheimers disease and related dementias are usually cared for by family members or friends. The majority of people with Alzheimers disease and related dementias are receiving care in their homes. Each year, more than 16 million Americans provide more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care for family and friends with Alzheimers disease and related dementias. In 2019, these caregivers will provide an estimated 18.5 billion hours of care. Approximately two-thirds of dementia caregivers are women, about one in three caregivers is age 65 or older, and approximately one-quarter of dementia caregivers are sandwich generation caregivers, meaning that they care not only for an aging parent, but also for children under age 18.

Caregivers of people with Alzheimers and related dementias provide care for a longer duration than caregivers of people with other types of conditions . Well over half of family caregivers of people with Alzheimers and related dementias provide care for four years or more. More than six in ten Alzheimers caregivers expect to continue having care responsibilities for the next 5 years compared with less than half of caregivers of people without dementia .

The demands of caregiving can limit a caregivers ability to take care of themselves. Family caregivers of people with Alzheimers and related dementias are at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and poorer quality of life than caregivers of people with other conditions.

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The Alzheimers And Dementia Care Journey

Caring for someone with Alzheimers disease or another type of dementia can be a long, stressful, and intensely emotional journey. But youre not alone. In the United States, there are more than 16 million people caring for someone with dementia, and many millions more around the world. As there is currently no cure for Alzheimers or dementia, it is often your caregiving and support that makes the biggest difference to your loved ones quality of life. That is a remarkable gift.

However, caregiving can also become all-consuming. As your loved ones cognitive, physical, and functional abilities gradually diminish over time, its easy to become overwhelmed, disheartened, and neglect your own health and well-being. The burden of caregiving can put you at increased risk for significant health problems and many dementia caregivers experience depression, high levels of stress, or even burnout. And nearly all Alzheimers or dementia caregivers at some time experience sadness, anxiety, loneliness, and exhaustion. Seeking help and support along the way is not a luxury its a necessity.

Just as each individual with Alzheimers disease or dementia progresses differently, so too can the caregiving experience vary widely from person to person. However, there are strategies that can aid you as a caregiver and help make your caregiving journey as rewarding as it is challenging.

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Learn Alzheimers Communication Tips

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Communicating with a person who has Alzheimers disease can become incredibly challenging, but much of what a family caregiver does depends upon mutual understanding. Without clear communication, both caregivers and patients are left feeling frustrated and misunderstood. When combined with ample practice and patience, the following suggestions can improve interactions and facilitate daily care tasks.

  • Choose simple words and short sentences and use a gentle, calm tone of voice.
  • Speak slowly and clearly, but do not talk to the person with Alzheimers like a baby.
  • Maintain respect dont speak about them as if they werent there.
  • Minimize distractions and background noise, such as the television or radio, to help the person focus on and process what you are saying.
  • Allow enough time for them to respond, and be careful not to interrupt.
  • If you cant understand what they are trying to say, look for nonverbal clues and take their surrounding environment into consideration.
  • Learn to interpret gestures, descriptions and substitutions.
  • Offer choices instead of asking open-ended questions.

Read more:10 Tips for Talking to Someone With Alzheimers

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Honor Their Independence And Identity As Long As You Can

Your top priority when it comes to providing care is to help prolong their dignity and independence as long as possible, Comer says. So instead of jumping in and taking over all tasks and responsibilities, which can confuse or agitate the person with Alzheimers, think of it more as if youre running interference for them, she says.

For example, You might pack an extra set of clothes when you go to a dinner party together in case of an accident, or make sure they get seated beside someone at the table who knows the situation and is sensitive to it, Comer explains. You dont want to keep them from living their life and being socially engaged, you just want to plan ahead and anticipate any issues you can.

You also want to play to their hobbies and passions as much as possible, which helps to maintain their identity. Maybe that means playing tennis and golf with them for hand-eye coordination, Comer explains. For example, her husband was once a long-distance runner, and she used to walk her husband six miles a day to calm him down.

Tip : Plan For The Future

While its not easy to think about, getting your finances in order and figuring out how you want your healthcare handled can give you a sense of power over your future. Talk with your loved ones and communicate your wishes. Discuss and document treatment and end-of-life preferences with your doctors and family members. Appoint someone you trust to make decisions for you when you can no longer make them for yourself.

Although these conversations may be difficult, making your wishes known can also be empowering. And by making important decisions early, youll avoid future medical, financial, and legal confusion.

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Getting Lost Outside The Home

A person with dementia may want to leave the house for any number of reasons. These could include exercising or going to the shops. This type of activity can help the person maintain some independence and boost their wellbeing.

Such a trip may involve the person taking familiar routes or heading towards an area that they know well. Despite this, a person with dementia may set off somewhere and then forget where they were going or why. They may also have problems recognising their environment and this can lead to them getting lost or coming to harm. This can be distressing for the person and for their carer.

For more advice on managing the risks of a person with dementia getting lost outside the home see Walking about.

It can be especially worrying if the person gets lost while driving. If this is the case, the person with dementia may have to stop driving, or you may need to look at ways to manage this, such as only driving with another person in the car.

Understanding And Supporting A Person With Dementia

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This page can help you understand what a person with dementia is going through in order to give them the help and support they need to live well.

  • You are here: Understanding and supporting a person with dementia
  • Understanding and supporting someone with dementia

    Living with dementia can have a big emotional, social, psychological and practical impact on a person. Many people with dementia describe these impacts as a series of losses and adjusting to them is challenging.

    This page aims to give people – and carers in particular – a better understanding of what it is like to have dementia. It looks at ways to support someone to live well with the condition, based on that understanding. It also looks at how supporting someone with dementia can affect carers.

    Press the orange play button to hear an audio version of this page:

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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:

    Healthy And Active Lifestyle Tips For People Living With Dementia

    Participating in activities you enjoy and getting exercise may help you feel better, stay social, maintain a healthy weight, and have regular sleep habits.

    Try these tips for a healthy and active lifestyle:

    • Try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes on most or all days of the week. But be realistic about how much activity you can do at one time. Several short mini-workouts may be best.
    • Aim for a mix of exercise types endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. For example, you could do a mix of walking or dancing, lifting weights, standing on one foot, and stretching. Even everyday activities like household chores and gardening help you stay active.
    • Your diet may need to change as dementia progresses to maintain a healthy weight. Talk with your doctor about the best diet for you, and choose nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein and dairy products. Avoid added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.
    • Stay social by talking on the phone with family and friends, joining an online support group, or going for a walk in your neighborhood.

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