Approximately 6 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s disease. Caring for an aging in place loved one with Alzheimer’s brings daily challenges like aggressive behaviors, wandering and hallucinations. Even simple tasks like bathing, dressing and eating can be increasingly difficult to manage. If your elderly loved one was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, as they progress through the stages of dementia a “one size fits all” approach simply won’t work. Here’s how to provide them with the ongoing care that’s needed.
Keep Your Daily Routine Flexible
First, study your loved one’s daily behaviors and habits. Based on what you’ve learned, alter your routine to coincide with theirs so that you reduce the likelihood for them getting agitated or confused. For example, if they are more cooperative in the morning, adjust your routine accordingly. If they have Sundowners Syndrome, they will be less cooperative during the late afternoon and twilight hours.
Communicating with Someone Who has Alzheimer’s
As an individual with Alzheimer’s progresses through the stages it becomes increasingly more difficult to communicate with them. Here are some communication tips:
- Use a calm, reassuring voice.
- Choose simple words and short sentences.
- Don’t speak about them as if they aren’t there.
- Minimize distractions and background noise.
- Get their attention by saying their name and then maintain eye contact.
- Give them time to respond without interrupting.
- Frame questions and instructions in a positive way.
- Be empathetic even if it’s hard to understand what they’re saying.
- Look for nonverbal cues.
Bathing, Feeding & Dressing a Senior with Alzheimer’s
Advanced dementia can turn bath time into a confusing and frightening experience. Bathing your loved one more safely is possible when using this approach:
- Plan bath time when they are most calm and cooperative.
- Get all the bathing supplies together and fill the tub in advance.
- Be gentle, calm and patient.
- Move slowly and let your loved one know what you are about to do. For example, say, “Mom, I’m going to wash your back now.”
- Keep the room and water temperatures comfortable.
- Create a safer bathroom environment with a shower bench, grab bars, hand-held shower wand and non-skid mats.
- Never leave your loved one in the tub or shower unattended.
Simple buttons and zippers are hard to negotiate for someone with Alzheimer’s. Take these steps to minimize dressing challenges:
- Try to get them to dress at the same time every day.
- Don’t pressure or hurry them while they’re getting dressed.
- Allow them to choose their favorite outfits whenever possible.
- Don’t overwhelm them with clothing options.
- Arrange their garments in order.
- Hand them one item at a time or give clear, step-by-step instructions.
- Find them clothing that is comfortable and easy to get on and off. Clothing with Velcro® and elastic waistbands works best.
Alzheimer’s affects senses like taste and smell. Making these mealtime adjustments will help your senior get the daily nutrients they need:
- Limit background noise and distractions.
- Try to eat at the same time but adjust mealtimes accordingly.
- Allow them to choose what they’d like to eat while limiting their options.
- Serve foods that vary in taste, color and texture.
- If swallowing is a problem, serve them nutritious soups, purees and smoothies.
- Find dishes and eating utensils that are easy for them to use.
- Encourage them to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
- Help them practice good dental hygiene.
Individuals with Alzheimer’s tend to wander off and get into things that are dangerous, so here’s how to create a safer home environment:
- Install security locks on all outside windows and doors.
- Remove bathroom and bedroom door locks.
- Place childproof latches on cabinet or closet doors where dangerous chemicals are stored.
- Keep all medications locked up.
- Secure all sharp objects like knives, scissors and tools.
- Create clutter-free walkways.
- Provide adequate lighting above stairs and steps.
- Secure the yard with fencing and a locked gate.
- Install an automatic shut-off valve on your kitchen stove.
Our Family is Here to Help Yours
Caring for an aging in place senior with Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming at times. When you or your loved one needs some extra support contact Family Services of Central Massachusetts (FSCM). While serving as an extended family in the home, our compassionate caregivers can assist your senior with daily needs like personal care, medication pickups, light housekeeping, laundry, grocery shopping and transportation.
The focus of our family trusted home care services is helping independent seniors age comfortably in place with dignity and peace of mind. To learn more about FSCM now, or to schedule a FREE in-home consultation for a senior in the Worcester County, MA, area today, please visit: www.fscm.org.