Tips For A Healthy And Active Lifestyle For People With Dementia
Eating healthy and staying active is good for everyone and is especially important for people with Alzheimers and related dementias. As the disease progresses, finding ways for the person to eat healthy foods and stay active may be increasingly challenging. Here are some tips that may help:
- Consider different activities the person can do to stay active, such as household chores, cooking and baking, exercise, and gardening. Match the activity to what the person can do.
- Help get an activity started or join in to make the activity more fun. People with dementia may lack interest or initiative and can have trouble starting activities. But, if others do the planning, they may join in.
- Add music to exercises or activities if it helps motivate the person. Dance to the music if possible.
- Be realistic about how much activity can be done at one time. Several short mini-workouts may be best.
- Take a walk together each day. Exercise is good for caregivers, too!
- Buy a variety of healthy foods, but consider food that is easy to prepare, such as premade salads and single portions.
- Give the person choices about what to eat, for example, Would you like yogurt or cottage cheese?
The Three Stages Of Dementia
After dementia is diagnosed, it usually follows a three-stage, downward trajectory.
In mild dementia, people may have difficulty remembering words and names, learning and remembering new information, and planning and managing complicated activities such as driving. They may also be experiencing sadness, anxiety, loss of interest in once pleasurable activities, and other symptoms of major depression.
In moderate dementia, judgment, physical function, and sensory processing are typically affected. This can cause problems with personal hygiene, inappropriate language, and wandering. This stage — when your loved one is able to get around but has poor judgment — is physically and emotionally challenging for the caregiver.
“My dad went from being Mr. Nice Guy to Mr. Obsessed. And things were always worse at night. He was energized and I was physically exhausted,” says Robert Matsuda, a Los Angeles musician who worked full-time and cared for his father with Alzheimer’s Disease for three years before recently placing him in a nursing home.
As a patient moves from mild to moderate dementia, some home modifications that may include removal of throw rugs, installation of locks and safety latches, and the addition of a commode in the bedroom often need to be made.
This is also the time when the palliative care team should be brought in to support the caregiver and help manage behaviors.
Tips For Everyday Care For People With Dementia
Early on in Alzheimers and related dementias, people experience changes in thinking, remembering, and reasoning in a way that affects daily life and activities. Eventually, people with these diseases will need more help with simple, everyday tasks. This may include bathing, grooming, and dressing. It may be upsetting to the person to need help with such personal activities. Here are a few tips to consider early on and as the disease progresses:
- Try to keep a routine, such as bathing, dressing, and eating at the same time each day.
- Help the person write down to-do lists, appointments, and events in a notebook or calendar.
- Plan activities that the person enjoys and try to do them at the same time each day.
- Consider a system or reminders for helping those who must take medications regularly.
- When dressing or bathing, allow the person to do as much as possible.
- Buy loose-fitting, comfortable, easy-to-use clothing, such as clothes with elastic waistbands, fabric fasteners, or large zipper pulls instead of shoelaces, buttons, or buckles.
- Use a sturdy shower chair to support a person who is unsteady and to prevent falls. You can buy shower chairs at drug stores and medical supply stores.
- Be gentle and respectful. Tell the person what you are going to do, step by step while you help them bathe or get dressed.
- Serve meals in a consistent, familiar place and give the person enough time to eat.
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Blocking Out Negativity Related To Dementia
Try using positive words in reference to people with dementia or Alzhiemers. I recall giving a report to a nurse during her shift, and verbally stating words such as aggressive, wandering, and sundowner. However, now that I really think about the negative perception those words can give, my vocabulary has changed. When I think of the word aggressive, I think of someone wanting to physically harm another or be combative when his or her behavior may genuinely be involuntary. When I think of what a sundowner is, it is when the sun goes down and a patient becomes out of control.
As nurses, the first thing we may say is, OK, I will have to get the Xanax or Ativan ready for this shift. As nurses, we think its OK to have these antipsychotic medications on standby. Wrong!
Every behavior being expressed is their way of trying to communicate to you that they have a need. Antipsychotic medications should be the last resort, not the first choice.
Other negative words to avoid:
- Dementia sufferer
- Distractions when interacting
- Open-ended questions
Help Them Stay Organized But Without Doing Everything For Them
Having a nighttime routine also helps with sleep problems that some seniors with dementia encounter. Doctors suggest non-drug options to manage sleep issues in those with dementia-related sleeping issues. The right room temperature, comfortable bedding, nightwear, and a soft light that isnt too dark can help. So can reading or listening to music to wind down instead of television or a drink which can act as a stimulant and disrupt sleep.9
A person with dementia may need help with their daily tasks and life which theyd managed alone until now. Having a set routine can help. Dont do everything for them though it might make them feel unwanted or useless. Instead, have them do things with you or assist with little jobs around the house. If tasks seem daunting, break it down into simpler steps for them. You could even use notes or little posters at critical locations to help them remember what to do or how to do something.10
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Tips For Caring For Someone With Alzheimers At Home
When an aging loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimers disease, their family often chooses to care for them at home for as long as possible. The comforts of a familiar environment can be highly beneficial, but keeping Alzheimers patients at home becomes increasingly difficult as they decline. Each day brings new challenges, unexpected behaviors and changes in functional abilities.
There are no one-size-fits-all solutions in dementia care, so Alzheimers caregivers usually devise their own strategies for dealing with a loved ones unique mix of symptoms. Furthermore, the effectiveness of certain strategies is likely to change throughout the course of a patients illness. The only way to find out what works for you and your loved one is through constant trial and error.
Learn Alzheimers Communication Tips
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.
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Recognize Triggers For Difficult Behavior And Stay Calm
If the delusions someone with dementia experiences are severe and may put them or you, the caregiver, at possible risk or harm, it is best to speak to a doctor to see if some medication may be needed.6
A person with dementia can be susceptible to depression, anxiety, agitation, hallucinations, aggression, and loss of inhibition.7 While anxiety and depression issues may need to be dealt with the help of a trained mental health professional, the other behavior may have to be managed by you. You can cope with difficult behavior like aggression by:8
- Identifying triggers for the behavior to see if they can be fixed. Pain can often be the cause for the unusual behavior.
- Staying calm.
- Not taking the behavior personally. It is not directed at you, but just an expression of the emotions or confusion the patient is experiencing. This may be especially hard to do if the dementia has made them suspicious and theyre accusing you of things like theft, infidelity, or inappropriate behavior.
- Avoiding arguments and confrontation.
- Accepting this as a symptom of the illness as you would any other symptom of a disease.
What Can I Do To Take Better Care Of Myself As I Continue To Care For My Loved One With Alzheimers Disease
Many individuals with Alzheimers disease need assistance on a daily basis. If you offer care and support to someone with dementia, your life is also affected. Being a caregiver can impact your physical health and emotional well-being as well as raise legal and financial concerns.
As a caregiver and similar to the well-known pre-flight instruction — you must put on your oxygen mask first before assisting others. You must take care of yourself first in order to be an effective caregiver. So what should you do? Below are some tips for managing some of the most common challenges caregivers face.
Caregiver challenge: Caregiving responsibilities
Tips for coping include:
- Set realistic and attainable goals for yourself and your loved one. Identify smaller steps to reach each goal. Create a plan to outline first steps to get started.
- Learn about Alzheimers disease, ways to address symptoms and planning for care over the course of the illness.
- Build your support team. Ask for support from family, friends, doctors, faith-based organizations, social service agencies and others to help with caregiving tasks and issues as the disease progresses. The mightier your team, the stronger you are.
Caregiver challenge: Physical health
- Take care of your own healthcare needs.
- Focus on ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle while caregiving.
- Keep regularly scheduled medical appointments and seek help for new health concerns.
Caregiver challenge: Emotional health
Tips for coping include:
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Do Try And Identify The Trigger That Causes Behavior Change
After spending some time with a patient who has dementia, caregivers may be in a position to identify some of the things that make dementia sufferers yell, get physical, or change their mood. For some, it may be something simple such as taking a bath or even getting dressed.
The best approach to handle this is not to force the patient to do something that they do not want to do. Try and distract them with something else that allows them to relax and calm down. Once they are not a danger to themselves or anyone around them, try going back to the subject, but this time reassuringly and calmly.
Dementia And Power Of Attorney: What To Do If Someone Cant Or Wont Sign A Poa
The number of Americans with different forms of dementia, such as Alzheimers disease, continues to grow at an alarming rate, according to the Alzheimers Association.
If youre caring for someone with dementia, you may face a legal catch-22 you hadnt anticipated: they cant or wont sign a power of attorney. Thats the legal document that allows someone else to make critical medical and financial decisions on their behalf when theyre not able to.
Dementia and power of attorney issues can cause unwanted complications in a persons care. Their inability or refusal to sign essential legal documents may leave family with limited options that may not be in the persons best interests.
Ron Anderson, an ARAG® network attorney, says There are common scenarios that we see in our practice regarding the impact of dementia on making important decisions and estate planning.
Find out about three common scenarios involving someone with dementia and their power of attorney, some of the options available in these situations, and what steps to take to avoid costly problems.
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Communicate Patiently Slowly And Clearly
Use physical touch to help communicate. For instance, if a person with dementia is having a hallucination, a gentle pat from you might draw them back to reality and out of their frightening hallucination.4 Sometimes holding hands, touching, hugging, and praise will get the person to respond when all else fails.
Communication or more specifically failed communication can be the crux of problems for many caregivers. Weve whittled it down to some of the key aspects that you could focus on to make it easy for you and the person with dementia:5
How To Connect With The Person
Communicating with a person with late-stage Alzheimers disease can take effort and patience. Though that persons ability to respond may be limited, it is important to continue to interact:
- Continue to visit with the person even if responses are limited.
- Try to speak calmly and slowly be aware of the tone and volume of your voice.
- Consider sharing familiar stories with the person.
- Make eye contact, say the persons name and smile.
- Use other methods of communication besides speaking, such as gentle touching or massage.
- Have the person listen to music or calming nature sounds.
Learn more about how to communicate with a person who has Alzheimer’s disease.
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Alzheimers Disease Symptoms And Treatmenthow Palliative Care Can Help
Palliative care is specialized medical care for people facing serious illnesses like Alzheimers Disease. The goal is to improve quality of life for both you and your family. You can have palliative care at any age and at any stage of your illness. You can also have it together with curative treatment.
Palliative care is provided by a specially trained team of palliative care doctors, nurses, social workers and other specialists who work together with your other doctors to provide you with an extra layer of support.
Involving a palliative care team can be useful in several ways. Palliative care helps treat some of the symptoms of Alzheimers Disease, such as depression, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. The team can also teach you and your family about what might trigger some of the behavior symptoms and how to avoid them.
One of the main techniques used in planning your daily care is maintaining a routine. Others include physical exercise and memory therapy, which help you use your brain. A calm and quiet environment, proper lighting to decrease shadows and good sleep habits can help as well.
If you have other medical problems such as heart disease, lung disease or conditions that are painful, palliative care can ease the symptoms, including pain and stress, that these might cause.
Be A Realistic Caregiver
Be realistic about what constitutes success during the progression of the disease. Success is helping to assure that the person you are caring for is as comfortable, happy and safe as possible. Most experienced dementia caregivers will tell you that the person they care for has good days and bad days. Try your best to foster the good days and even the good moments for the person with dementia, dont try to force them. Also, be realistic about the course of the disease. Remember that most types of dementia, including Alzheimers, are irreversible and progressive. Dementia will tend to get worse over time and there is no known cure.
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Research Alzheimers Behaviors And How To Manage Them
Sundowning and Sleep Problems
Many people with Alzheimers become restless, agitated, and irritable in the late afternoons and evenings. This is referred to as sundowning, sundowners or sundown syndrome. Explore these suggestions for managing the mood and behavior changes and poor sleep that occur due to sundowning.
- Encourage exercise and more physically demanding activities earlier in the day, as it tends to improve sleep quality. For example, move stimulating or stressful activities like bathing to the morning.
- Limit naps later in the day, but make sure the person gets adequate rest. Fatigue can increase the likelihood of late-afternoon restlessness and exacerbate sundowning.
- Set a quiet, peaceful tone in the evening by limiting family activities and other distractions. Eliminate loud noises, play soothing music, and minimize television watching, as it can be stimulating.
- Ensure the home remains well lit if darkness and shadows appear to trigger fear, pacing or other sundowning behaviors.
Hallucinations and Delusions
As the disease progresses, an older adult with Alzheimers disease may experience hallucinations and/or delusions. Learning how to respond to these symptoms is a critical component of Alzheimers care and often takes lots of practice.
Caring For A Person With Dementia: A Practical Guide
If you are the main person supporting someone with dementia, this guide is for you. It will tell you more about their condition and how it can affect them over time.
You may be supporting a partner, friend or family member. You may or may not see yourself as caring for them, or think of yourself as their carer.
Supporting someone with dementia can be a rewarding experience, giving you an opportunity to help someone who is important to you and learn new skills. But we also know that it may be very challenging at times. The information in this booklet is here to support you to care for the person and to look after yourself.
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