People with Alzheimer’s can get frustrated as tasks that were once easy get harder. But there are many ways to help them feel calm and safe as they enjoy day-to-day life more.
Keep a Routine
Planning daily activities doesn’t come easily to people with Alzheimer’s. They also tend to prefer familiar habits, places, and tasks.
But daily routines help them focus on activities they find meaningful. If they know what to expect, it can also lessen frustration and improve their mood.
When you plan a daily routine for the person you care for, think about:
- Their likes and dislikes
- How they used to spend their days
- Times of day they feel freshest: Things like bathing or going to a doctor’s appointment are easier when your loved one feels rested.
- Regular times for waking up and going to sleep: Don’t let them nap several times during the day, or for long periods. This could disrupt their sense of day and night.
Place familiar objects around the house, such as family photos and mementos. These can make them feel more secure and connected.
Familiar smells and pastimes are also comforting. A favorite dessert and a TV show can be a pleasure for someone who always enjoyed those things after dinner or started their day that way, even if they can’t totally understand the show’s plot.
Limit Excess Sound
Too much noise can easily overwhelm people with Alzheimer’s. Too much sound can come from the radio, TV, or lots of people talking at the same time.
Ways to limit extra sound:
- Turn down the volume.
- Turn the TV off during mealtimes or while you’re talking to each other.
- Also turn off the TV when a show is upsetting or violent, since they might think the events on the screen are real.
- Choose music sources (CDs, streaming services) that aren’t interrupted by possibly confusing commercials.
- Shut windows and doors when music or TV are playing to stop competing noise.
- Allow fewer people in the room during gatherings.
Alzheimer’s makes it hard to improve skills or remember directions. So it’s key to be patient with your loved one when they struggle and to remember they can’t help it.
Ways to be understanding:
- Focus on one activity at a time. Guide them step by step if they get confused.
- Schedule more time for tasks and allow for breaks.
- Don’t criticize or correct them if they do something you find meaningless but they enjoy.
- Don’t try to argue or use logic with them when their behavior seems unreasonable.
- If your loved one does something they enjoy but can’t do well -- such as folding clothes -- don’t point that out.
- Don’t correct them every time they forget something or say something that doesn’t make sense to you.
- Don’t put words in their mouth or rush in to fill in the blanks in their memory.
Help Them Connect
People with Alzheimer’s can find it hard to express their thoughts and feelings as their disease goes on. But you can help make it easier for them to communicate and feel connected.
- Make eye contact and call them by name.
- Touch them gently to guide them or hold their hand while you talk.
- Ask questions that need a yes or no answer. Ask “Are you hungry?” instead of “How do you feel?”
- Don’t talk about them in front of others like they’re not there.
- Don’t use a “baby” voice when speaking to them.
Give Them Choices
Most people like to have choices, especially in clothes or food, but making decisions can be hard for those with Alzheimer’s. So give your loved one choices when you can, but keep them simple.
Ways to do this:
- Ask them to choose between two options, such as the plaid shirt or the striped shirt, a hot or cold drink, or if they’d rather read or go for a walk.
- Weed out extra clothing in their closet so they can see several options, but not so many that they get overwhelmed.
- If they want to wear the same shirt every day, buy multiples of the same favorite piece.
- If they choose mismatched clothing, let it go.
- At a restaurant, help them look at the menu. Then suggest a few foods you know they’ll like.
Let Them Help
Doing simple tasks can help your loved one with Alzheimer’s feel needed and like an important part of the household. They may appreciate you asking them to help.
You can tweak each job to match their ability to do it. Ask them to:
- Wash dishes
- Set the table
- Sweep the floor
- Fold laundry
- Measure and mix ingredients for cooking or baking
Keep their previous career in mind too. Someone who used to work in an office might like sorting through the mail or simple organizing tasks.