Advice on Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s

Follow these tips to help make caregiving easier


- Posted on Feb 14, 2019

Advice on Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s

This article is based on information provided by Home Instead Senior Care.

Like most people, those who have dementia  need activities that provide pleasure and a sense of purpose. It’s just that people with Alzheimer’s face their own set of challenges. As a caregiver, you may also face challenges as you try to determine which activities are appropriate and helpful for your loved one.

Follow these practical tips, and helpful reminders, to keep your loved one active and engaged. 

Understand That “Laziness” May Not Be What it Seems

A person’s brain changes with dementia. Even in the early stages, people begin to lose the ability to perform day-to-day tasks without guidance and cues. So when someone with dementia appears to be lazy, it is very often the case that he or she has actually lost the ability to do simple things.

You might try carrying out the task at hand alongside this person and talking him or her through each step—casually. This can be a great help.

Boost Daytime Energy by Treating Sleepless Nights

Medications are available to alleviate nighttime sleep issues for people with dementia. But it’s better to try the non-drug suggestions first. Two good ways are to maintain regular hours for meals and bedtimes, and to get morning sunlight exposure whenever possible.

Try These Conversation Tips

· Ask more open-ended questions: “Tell me about your time living in Hawaii,” instead of “Did you live in Hawaii?” This may encourage longer and more meaningful answers.

· Language centers are damaged by dementia. Keep in mind that behavior communicates a message. If your loved one appears stressed or sad, check to see if he or she needs to go to the bathroom, is hungry or in pain.

· Make it a point to use positive body language. Smile and hug (when invited) since people with dementia read your face and can sense when emotions are upbeat.

The Soothing Effects of Music

Studies have shown that people with Alzheimer’s can become less aggressive and more relaxed when they listen to music. Playing music from the person’s early life is a good place to start, as it may trigger the strongest positive memories and feelings.

Methods to Encourage Physical Activity

· It’s best to not have an involved discussion with your loved one when you’re trying to convince him or her to do something physically active. You might just say, “Come on Dad, let’s go for a walk around the block.”

· Asking for assistance with anything that requires getting up and moving can be effective. The more calm and natural you are in making these requests, the less likely your loved one will refuse.

· Because something that works once may not work the next time, you may have to approach the issue in a variety of ways. 

· Even when people may no longer be able to take initiative, asking them to do something with you can be a successful approach. 

Make it Easier for Your Loved One to Go Out in Public

· Go out with your loved one so that you can be there to help if you notice he or she forgets something. 

· Say the name of anyone you run into to avoid potential embarrassment.

· Think of one of the person’s favorite pastimes, and go to the associated environment together, just to be surrounded with the activity. For example, if your father loved to golf, take him to a driving range or golf course to watch the other golfers.

Use Music to Stimulate the Five Senses

Music hooks into all the senses, and can bring joy to a person with Alzheimer’s disease. It can help relax a person and/or stimulate engagement.  

Science has shown that song lyrics and music occupy a different part of the brain than do words and language. So music can be soothing and fun even for someone who is well into the illness.

· Watch to be sure you don’t overstimulate with music, though. Intersperse slower, more mellow tunes with the higher energy ones.

· If a song goes over particularly well, it can be good to repeat it since people with dementia may enjoy a “reprise.”

Do Things Your Loved One Used to Enjoy

It’s often helpful to find something your loved one had a passion for before developing Alzheimer’s disease. You might still be able to do anything the person enjoyed. Even talking during short walks can provide a big boost.

Make Social Engagements Easier

· It is possible that your loved one no longer wants to go on outings with you because they are overwhelming to your loved one. It helps to plan activities that are not overstimulating or anxiety-producing.

· Consider things your loved one has always enjoyed doing. You may need to modify some of these activities because they will no longer be appropriate. For example, being around large numbers of people may be too much to manage now. Try to create a scaled-down version of what the person has always loved.

· People with dementia need to remain socially and mentally stimulated, and this is a great way to allow for it.

Keep Trying to Engage Your Loved One

Don’t give up on finding things that can stimulate your loved one. If the person is losing cognitive skills, try music, encourage physical activity, and get out into nature for sensory stimulation, natural vitamin D and the amazing spiritual connection thatcomes with it.

Find Favorite Things from the Past 

· Try to come up with things that the person cherished in earlier years. It could be a musician, board game, baking specialty, etc. Reminding the person of these things will help to bring about feelings of comfort and happiness.

· Don’t be frustrated if it takes time to figure out which memories connect. With patience you will eventually find some things.

Use Photographs to Capture and Preserve Old Times

· Photo albums are a great way to keep long-lasting memories for someone with Alzheimer’s, and oftentimes they allow you both to reminisce. Photos help generate a feeling of familiarity and comfort.

· Invite other family members to look at old photos with you and your loved one. Just move on if the person doesn’t recognize everything, and begins to get confused or embarrassed.

· If you find a few photos that spark a particularly positive response or discussion keep them on hand to look at together whenever you can.

Gently Coax Your Loved One To Answer Questions

· Getting someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia to voice a preference can be a challenge. The pat response to the question, “How are you feeling,” might be, “fine.” When you ask what the person wants, the answer might always be, “I don’t want anything.”

· It is difficult to be patient when you ask questions, and don’t get the kinds of answers you expect. But rather than putting someone on the spot by asking about complex feelings or posing open-ended questions, try offering choices: “Would you like to take your bath now, or after dinner?”, or “Would you like soup or chicken for dinner?”

· This approach can give the person a sense of independence, and also make it easier to accomplish your goal (e.g., getting your loved one to eat or bathe).

· You can also ask simple questions that only require a “yes” or a “no.”

Is It a Good Idea to Bring Up Things Your Loved One Doesn’t Remember?

· If you have a feeling that it will upset your loved one to discuss things from the past that he or she can no longer remember, then don’t bring them up. Instead, let the person to take the lead and talk about things they dorecall, like childhood experiences.

· Depending on the level of memory loss, people with dementia may become sad or depressed when asked to talk about things they don’t recall.  

· Talking about things that your loved one can remember might help bring more happy memories to the surface.

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