If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia, your role in managing daily tasks will increase as the disease progresses. Consider practical tips that can help the person with dementia participate as much as possible and enable you to manage tasks effectively.
A person with dementia might become agitated when once-simple tasks become difficult. To limit challenges and ease frustration:
- Schedule wisely. Establish a daily routine. Some tasks, such as bathing or medical appointments, are easier when the person is most alert and refreshed. Allow some flexibility for spontaneous activities or particularly difficult days.
- Take your time. Anticipate that tasks may take longer than they used to and schedule more time for them. Allow time for breaks during tasks.
- Involve the person. Allow the person with dementia to do as much as possible with the least amount of assistance. For example, he or she might be able to set the table with the help of visual cues or dress independently if you lay out clothes in the order they go on.
- Provide choices. Provide some, but not too many, choices every day. For example, provide two outfits to choose from, ask if he or she prefers a hot or cold beverage, or ask if he or she would rather go for a walk or see a movie.
- Provide simple instructions. People with dementia best understand clear, one-step communication.
- Limit napping. Avoid multiple or prolonged naps during the day. This can minimize the risk of getting days and nights reversed.
- Reduce distractions. Turn off the TV and minimize other distractions at mealtime and during conversations to make it easier for the person with dementia to focus.
Over time, a person with dementia will become more dependent. To reduce frustration, stay flexible and adapt your routine and expectations as needed.
For example, if he or she wants to wear the same outfit every day, consider buying a few identical outfits. If bathing is met with resistance, consider doing it less often.
Create a safe environment
Dementia impairs judgment and problem-solving skills, increasing a person's risk of injury. To promote safety:
- Prevent falls. Avoid scatter rugs, extension cords and any clutter that could cause falls. Install handrails or grab bars in critical areas.
- Use locks. Install locks on cabinets that contain anything potentially dangerous, such as medicine, alcohol, guns, toxic cleaning substances, dangerous utensils and tools.
- Check water temperature. Lower the thermostat on the hot-water heater to prevent burns.
- Take fire safety precautions. Keep matches and lighters out of reach. If the person with dementia smokes, always supervise smoking. Make sure a fire extinguisher is accessible and the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries.
Focus on individualized care
Each person with Alzheimer's disease will experience its symptoms and progression differently. Tailor these practical tips to your family member's needs.
Patience and flexibility — along with self-care and the support of friends and family — can help you deal with the challenges and frustrations ahead.