ABC’s of Alzheimer’s / Dementia Care
Often when working with a person with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia it can be difficult to know what you can do to help. This helplessness can lead to avoidance, complacency and in some cases depression or worse. Here are some easy to remember tips for caring for someone with memory loss.
Advocate directly by speaking up or reporting if you feel that someone is treating your loved one unfairly or unwell. Take part in supporting organizations that help those who are coping with memory impairment. Alzheimer’s Association at alz.org, Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center at adrcinc.org or Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation at liaf.org. Ask about how you can contact local, state and national lawmakers to request increased funding for research and services.
Be kind no matter what!
Contact- stay in close contact as needed physically but most importantly emotionally. Check in with how your loved one is feeling constantly throughout your time with them.
Don’t forget that their behaviors are not merely personality but a disease that is affecting their actions. Don’t take it personally.
Enjoy the time you spend with them. The hours you spend with your loved one will go by no matter what you do. You can fill that time with enjoyable moments which enhance both of your lives.
Familiarize- Take every opportunity to find out all that you can. You can validate and redirect better when you have knowledge about life, family, hobbies, likes and dislikes, medication side effects, pain levels, etc.
Give- the gift of yourself. Be present in your communications and open your heart to those you care for.
Have a plan- If you start each day or visit with a plan in mind the day/visit will go smoother and be calmer. Think of different activities and schedule the day with activities, mealtimes, snack times, hydration and down time.
Invite your loved one to share with you by sharing positive stories and happy times from own life. Avoid negative conversations as well as deep or disturbing television programming.
Joke- be sure to be sensitive but joking and laughing are great ways to relieve tension and create a positive relationship.
Keep a close eye out for changes in mood, behavior, appetite and physical appearance. Report any changes to your medical team. Nothing that you observe as a change is too small to mention. See something say something.
Learn as much as possible about the disease, its effects and how to best communicate.
Make the day count. Create something. Baking, cooking, crafts, weaving, poetry, puzzling, art and even sensory stimulation projects such as slime-making or mud pies, play-doh or sand art can be extremely satisfying.
Never argue. Join them in whatever reality they might be in at that moment. Your goal is to keep them safe and content not to teach them what is right from your point of view. Leave your ego at the door.
Offer your assistance don’t just give it. Allow your loved one to do what he or she is still able to do.
Patience is key to every interaction. Slow down and use step by step instruction.
Questions should be closed ended and very specific, it works best to form them into more of a statement, for example: “Wouldn’t a cheeseburger sound good right now?” Instead of “What would you like to have for lunch?” Know what you would like the answer to be before asking.
Read with or to your loved one. The written word is powerful and hearing about things that are interesting can be a great way to pass the time. For those in later stages, reading song lyrics, rhymes or anything with a sing song tone can be extremely positive.
Simplify your day by making it as structured as possible.
Keep language, instructions and explanations as simple as possible. One thing at a time.
Take care to approach with the right body language and spatial relation and to shake off negative energies before beginning an interaction with your loved one.
Understand that your loved one may not be able to do things the way that you can. Allow them the time to move at their own pace. Empathize and always make them feel part of their care team, not a burden.
Visual and Verbal cueing is essential in communication. Your client loved one may have impairments that make it difficult for them to understand single form communication. The mixture of Visual, Verbal and Touch can really make it easier for both of you.
Wait an extra 10 seconds whenever you speak for to allow what you have said to be processed by their brain which is working much slower than yours.
X- EXcuse irrational behaviors, eXpect that things will not always go according to plan, eXercise the mind and body.
Yes, should be the word of the day, even when you have to say no find a way to say it positively and offer a yes to back it up.
Zero in on what your loved one is feeling in each moment and join them on their journey with care and compassion.