A dementia diagnosis can be devastating -- not only for the person with the disease, but for those who love him, too. “There’s a grieving that occurs. You haven’t lost your loved one, but the person you know is going to change,” says Rosanne M. Leipzig, MD, professor of geriatric medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
If you or someone close to you has Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, here are six steps to help you deal with the disease now and in the future.
Set up a daily routine and stick to it. For example, brush your loved one's teeth after meals. Or always have baths in the mornings or evenings. Choose the most relaxed times of the day for these tasks.
Respect her privacy. Close doors and blinds. Cover her with a towel or bathrobe.
Encourage her to take on as much of her own care as possible. This will give her a sense of independence and accomplishment.
Keep her abilities in mind. Give her enough time to complete each task -- for example, brushing her hair or teeth.
Encourage and support her. For example, say, "You did a nice job getting dressed today."
Tell her what you’re doing before you do it -- "I'm going to wash your hair now."
If she can dress herself, lay out her clothes in the order she should put them on. It’s best to give her clothing that’s easy to put on, with few buttons.
Healthy eating is very important for people with Alzheimer’s, but it can get harder as their symptoms get worse. Here are some ways to make sure your loved one gets a nutritious diet and plenty of fluids, like water or juice.
Encourage her to feed herself if she’s able. Serve finger foods that are easier to handle and eat, like chicken nuggets, orange slices, or steamed broccoli.
If eating with a plate and fork gets too hard for her, give her a bowl and spoon. You can also try plate guards or silverware with handles.
Don't force her to eat. If she’s not interested in food, try to find out why. Treat her like an adult, not a child.