If you care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, you know how daily tasks can become overwhelming, particularly when the disease progresses. It is possible to help reduce the frustration and anxiety of the person in your care (and your own). By approaching tasks and activities with patience and flexibility, you can navigate the ups and downs that each day brings when you provide Alzheimer’s care.
The Mayo Clinic team recommends three practical focus areas: 1) reduce frustration 2) be flexible and 3) create a safe environment. Together, these tips for Alzheimer’s caregivers can make task management easier, while involving the person with memory loss as much as possible.
Reduce opportunities for frustration
When tasks that used to be simple become more difficult for a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s, these tips for caregivers are designed to reduce agitation and other challenges.
- Be thoughtful about your schedule. A daily routine is helpful to virtually anyone, certainly when caring for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Consider planning appointments and bathing for times when the person with dementia tends to be the most refreshed and alert. On days that feel more difficult, give yourself the flexibility to enjoy a short walk or other spontaneous activity.
- Allow plenty of time. Try scheduling more than enough time for each thing in your day. It’s not uncommon for daily tasks to take longer than they used to. Having more than enough time and creating break times in the middle of tasks helps keep stress at bay for anyone, including people with memory loss and their caregivers.
- Offer a few choices each day. Provide a few simple choices each day. For example: “Would you like to go for a walk or watch a movie?” or “Do you want hot tea or cold tea with your toast?”
- Make involvement possible. As a caregiver, consider the tasks the person with Alzheimer’s can do as independently as possible. Think of simple visual cues that might allow the person in your care to set the table for lunch, or consider whether setting out pajamas in order of what goes on first could empower them to change clothes with minimal assistance.
- Minimize distractions to help focus. Turn off the radio or TV and reduce other distractions to make it easier for a person with dementia to focus at meal times and during conversations.
Look for ways to be flexible with Alzheimer’s care
In Alzheimer’s care, things will inevitably change over time. As the person with memory loss becomes more dependent, a caregiver’s routines and expectations will need to adjust. Flexibility through these shifts and changes will help everyone reduce frustration.
- Are there decision points during the day that you can plan around? Does the person with dementia have a favorite shirt to wear? Perhaps buying one or two more identical shirts would make dressing time easier. Is the late afternoon routine more often rockier than smooth? Consider small changes that might help.
Make the environment safer
As memory loss progresses, it affects the person’s judgment and problem-solving skills. These tips for Alzheimer’s caregivers can increase safety and reduce the risk of injury.
- Prevent falling accidents. Look for ways to safely secure or eliminate scatter rugs, extension cords or other household items on the floor or in walkways. Handrails and grab bars can be added in critical areas to help increase safety.
- Use locks in and around the house. Secure cabinets with locks to limit access to anything that could be dangerous. This includes medicine, alcohol, weapons, toxic chemicals or cleaning supplies and tools.
- Plan for emergency situations. The Vitals™ App increases safety and peace of mind with the only living digital medical ID to communicate health issues to 911 and first responders. Learn how the Vitals™ App works to keep people safe, no matter the panic, confusion or communication barriers.
- Set a safe water temperature. You can control the highest temperature your home’s hot water heater will go. Lower the thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or below, to prevent scalding injuries and burns.
- Prioritize fire and carbon monoxide safety. Keep matches, lighters and highly flammable products out of reach and/or locked in a cabinet. If the person with dementia in your care smokes, they should always be supervised while smoking. A home fire extinguisher should be accessible, and you should replace the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at least once a year.
The most important tip for dementia and Alzheimer’s caregivers is to remember that every person is unique. Likewise, the experience of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia — the symptoms and progression — will vary. No single set of tips will work for every person or family. Use the ones that help you and the person in your care.
Practice patience and flexibility, and never hesitate to ask friends, family members or trusted partners for help.