Alzheimer’s Care: 6 Tips to Improve Daily Life

There’s a lot you can do to help someone you care about with Alzheimer’s enjoy their day-to-day activities. Even though people with Alzheimer’s may get frustrated or confused easily, try these steps to help them feel calm and safe.

1. Keep a Routine

People with Alzheimer’s tend to prefer a familiar schedule and settings. Changes can upset or confuse them. If you need to take your relative or friend with Alzheimer’s to the doctor, for example, leave a reminder note about the visit on the refrigerator or mark a large calendar in their home, says Linda Davis, PhD, RN.

Leaving notes is helpful, says the elder-care expert at Duke University, because people with Alzheimer’s can often understand what they read when they can’t understand spoken words. Davis also suggests leaving notes around their home with directions such as “This way to the bathroom.” It will help keep their surroundings familiar and comfortable.

2. Limit the Amount of Sound and Movement

People with Alzheimer’s can be easily overwhelmed by crowds and noises, says Marsha Lewis PhD, dean of the School of Nursing of the University of Buffalo. She suggests these strategies to keep distractions in check:

  • Avoid Shopping in Crowds. Instead of taking your friend to a busy mall, go to a small store. Or try shopping when stores aren’t likely to be busy.
  • Gather in small groups. Even though your loved one may like to see the whole family at the holidays, he or she may get flustered by all the grandchildren. To make visits more enjoyable for everyone, have similar groups of family members drop in at different times.
  • Keep the TV off during other activities. Someone with Alzheimer’s may have a hard time telling the difference between what’s going on in the room and what’s happening on the television.

3. Find Things They Can Do

Spending time on familiar tasks and hobbies helps people with Alzheimer’s feel productive and happy, Lewis says. Just be sure that they can safely handle the task. You may need to take a different approach with a favorite activity, or do things together. For example:

  • Grandma, who loves to bake, might still be able to stir the batter after you’ve measured out the ingredients. She could drop cookies onto a cool sheet while you handle getting the pans in and out of the hot oven.
  • Someone who gets confused by all of the settings on the washing machine may be able to take towels out of the dryer and fold them like a pro.
  • A lifelong carpenter who can’t handle power tools may be happy sanding a block of wood.

4. Be Understanding

People with Alzheimer’s are less likely to improve their skills or remember directions. You need to make adjustments for how much your loved one can–and can’t–do.

Lewis says, for example, you could let your mother set the table as best as she’s able. If you later need to quietly rearrange the silverware in its correct order, that’s OK. Or, instead of reminding your father-in-law not to drink out of the milk container over and over, buy him his own container and put his name on it.

5. Make Decisions for Your Loved One

Someone who has Alzheimer’s may become upset or confused when they have to make decisions, Lewis says. So it’s OK to take some control of everyday choices. For example, rather than asking your wife what she wants to wear, let her pick between just two blouses. Or simply choose one for her and tell her how nice she looks wearing it.

At a restaurant, help your friend look at the menu. Then suggest a few items that you know he would like.

6. Be Ready for “Sundowning”

At night, some people with Alzheimer’s grow upset more easily. This is called sundowning. Davis suggests these steps to help calm your loved one in the evenings:

  • Turn on more lights. Well-lit surroundings may seem less worrisome.
  • Show your concern. At night, your loved one may become worried that an intruder is trying to break into the home. Don’t dismiss their fears. Instead, let them watch you check that the doors and windows are locked. Reassure them that no prowlers are in their home or yard.

 

 

WebMD Feature
By Eric Metcalf, MPH

SOURCES:

Linda Davis, PhD, RN, professor emerita, School of Nursing, Duke University, Durham, N.C.
Marsha Lewis, PhD, RN, dean, School of Nursing, University at Buffalo, New York.
National Institute on Aging: “Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on June 26, 2013
© 2013 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
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WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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