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 the disease can 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.
So if you need to take your relative or friend to the doctor, for example, leave a reminder note about the visit on the fridge 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 the disease can often understand what they read when they can't understand spoken words.
Davis also suggests you leave notes around their home with directions such as, "This way to the bathroom." It will help keep their surroundings feeling familiar and comfortable.
2. Limit the Amount of Sound and Movement
People with Alzheimer's can be easily overwhelmed by crowds and noise, says Marsha Lewis, PhD, dean of the School of Nursing of the University at Buffalo.
Lewis 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 may get flustered by all the grandchildren. To make visits better for everyone, have smaller 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 can help your loved one feel productive and happy, Lewis says. Just be sure that they can safely handle the task.
You might 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 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.