By Craig Escobar
In part one of this three-part series I focused on what Alzheimer’s disease is and some of the shocking facts regarding how pervasive Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia have become. I also provided a list of tips and tactics to assist both family caregivers and professional caregivers with in-home care for people with Alzheimer’s. (If you want to check out part one, click here)
In part two I am going to continue the list of tips and tactics focused on activities of daily living for Alzheimer’s in-home care. Alzheimer’s, which is a form of Dementia, is a disease that often changes in its symptoms and its effects on the person’s functional abilities. Families often say, “What used to work is not working” and vice versa. When the person with dementia refuses to do something, remember that their response could change at any given time and if you are getting a “no” response, be patient and remember to consider that you may have to approach it from a different angle especially when a no response will potentially endanger their safety. There are times when family members and or caregivers have no choice but to take the lead. Below are more tips and tactics for Alzheimer’s in-home care.
Being able to communicate with people who have Alzheimer’s or another form of Dementia is very important. The person with dementia has limited vocabulary and attention span due to the disease. When preparing to speak with someone and have a more focused conversation, first, turn off the TV and or any other potential distractions. Next, get the person’s attention, call them by their name and make sure they’re looking and listening to you. Speak directly and simply by using simple words and sentences and talking in a gentle and calm tone of voice. Remember, even though you are speaking simply and directly, make sure to treat the person as an adult, be patient and allow time for a response. Be careful not to interrupt and avoid talking in a condescending tone.
People with Alzheimer’s may have limited appetites as well as short attention spans. Plan on serving smaller portions of food and providing snacks throughout the day. Limit distractions by ensuring a quiet and calm atmosphere. Help to make drinking as easy as possible for the person by using straws and/or cups with lids. If the person has trouble with utensils, try serving things like chicken fingers/nuggets, mozzarella sticks, and other similar finger foods. Try using bowls instead of plates to encourage independent eating. Also, make sure to schedule regular dentist appointments to help maintain healthy teeth. If the person’s teeth decay and/or get cavities, it’s going to impair their ability to eat properly.
For those with dementia, getting dressed presents a series of challenges, from choosing what to wear, to figuring out how to properly take things off and put other things on, to working with buttons and zippers. In order to help simplify the process, layout clothing items in the order they need to be put on. Be there with them to provide clear, step by step instructions. Comfortable and convenient clothing is ideal for people with Dementia. Look for clothing with elastic waists instead of having to use a belt and use clothing and footwear that uses Velcro instead of buttons and zippers.
Dementia can make bathing a scary and confusing experience. Planning in advance can help make bath time better for both of you. Try gathering everything you’re going to need ahead of time, including a towel and a change of clothes. Get the water going and set it to the right temperature. Making the bathroom warm can help because getting undressed when the person is cold can create problems. Always make sure safety is at the forefront of your mind, grab bars, shower bench or chair, non-skid bath mats and use a handheld showerhead. Also, never leave the person alone in the shower. To make the person more comfortable, tell them what you are going to do, step by step and try to let them do as much as possible. Replacing some showers with sponge baths can be effective depending on how active the person is.
Activities & Exercises
Incorporating physical and mental stimulation into daily routines is important and helpful for both the person with Dementia and the caregiver. Remember to take things slowly which will help avoid frustration and overexertion. If possible, find activities that you’ll both like whether it’s simply taking a nice and refreshing walk or a game night. Make sure the activities are simple and enjoyable. Remember to take advantage of organizations like the Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center (ADRC) and the Alzheimer’s Association who have organized programs for people dealing with Dementia in one form or another and provide a good source for socialization with others.
As the disease progresses, many people with dementia begin to experience incontinence. Sometimes incontinence is due to physical illness, so be sure to discuss it with the person’s doctor. One of the best things you can do is to develop a regular schedule as opposed to waiting for them to ask. Look for signs of discomfort and in order to help prevent accidents, avoid fluids after a set time at night. If you plan to take the person out, make sure you know where the restrooms are. Accidents do occur so when they do, stay calm and minimize embarrassment by taking care of it as quickly as possible.
Getting enough sleep is important in helping to ensure maximum mental functioning. Try to keep evenings as peaceful as possible, dim the lights, avoid stimulating activities like watching TV and limit caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and soda. Relaxing music can be a great way to help them relax and set the tone for bed. Make sure to set a consistent bedtime to help develop their internal clock. If possible, keep that time within 15-20 mins of the same time each night. It’s also important to make sure the person gets enough physical activity every day because it will help them have deeper and more restorative sleep every night.
In part three of this series, I am going to cover more tips and tactics for Alzheimer’s in-home care as well as what you need to know about driving and Alzheimer’s. If you or anyone you know needs help with in-home care, feel free to reach out to SeniorCare Companions at 631-581-9000 as well as the Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center (ADRC) at 631-580-5100. SeniorCare Companions was recently awarded 2019 Best of Islip Award for outstanding service.