As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, patients find that simple tasks become difficult or impossible, but caregivers can help them maintain a sense of independence and dignity, a doctor says.
Create a routine that makes days more predictable and schedule the most challenging tasks — such as bathing or medical appointments — at a time of day when your loved one is typically most calm, advised Dr. Ronald Petersen, a Mayo Clinic neurologist.
Adapt to your loved one’s needs. If he or she insists on wearing the same clothes every day, for instance, consider buying a few identical outfits. Limiting choices will make it easier for the person to decide. Instead of a closet full of clothes, offer a choice of two outfits and do away with belts or accessories that he or she is likely to put on incorrectly.
Expect things to take longer than they once did. This will help you avoid having to rush your loved one.
“Allow your loved one to do as much as possible with the least amount of assistance. For example, perhaps your loved one can dress alone if you lay out the clothes in the order they go on,” Petersen said in a Mayo news release.
Turn off the TV and minimize distractions during meals and conversations so your loved one is better able to focus.
Consider safety. To reduce the risk of falls, remove scatter rugs, extension cords and clutter that could pose a tripping hazard. Install handrails or grab bars in appropriate locations.
“Install locks on cabinets that contain anything potentially dangerous, such as medicine, alcohol, guns, toxic cleaning substances, dangerous utensils and tools,” Peterson said.
Lower the setting on the hot water heater to prevent burns and keep matches and lighters out of reach. If your loved one smokes, make sure he or she is supervised while doing so.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about Alzheimer’s caregiving.