When you're a caregiver for a person with Alzheimer's disease, one of your main goals is to help your loved one do as much they can on their own. This helps them keep their sense of independence. Break down tasks into small steps, or even write out easy-to-follow directions.
Use this checklist to help you help them with daily care:
- Show them how to brush their teeth step by step, or brush yours at the same time. Try an angled, long-handled, or electric toothbrush if you're brushing for them.
- If a woman wants to wear makeup, encourage it. Help them with lipstick and powder, if they want. Skip eye makeup if it seems too hard for them to tackle.
- To keep shaving safe, use an electric razor instead of one with a blade.
- Use a hand-held showerhead, rubber bath mat, grab bars, and a shower stool to prevent falls. If thye have trouble getting in and out of the tub, try sponge baths.
- To help relax them during bathing, play calming music and tell them what you are doing each step of the way.
- Give them as much privacy as you can. Put a towel over their shoulders and lap. Clean under the towel with a washcloth or sponge.
- If thye tend to get anxious and hitting is a problem, give them a washcloth to hold. They'll be less likely to strike and may calm down.
- Make it easier for them to dress on their own. Lay out their clothes in the order they put them on, or hand them one piece of clothing at a time.
- If they want to wear the same clothes every day, don't fight it. Buy 3 or 4 sets of them.
- Make sure they have loose clothes that are easy to put on. Shorts and pants with elastic waistbands and slip-on shoes are good. Skip shoelaces, buttons, and buckles.
- Keep mealtime simple and calm. Turn off the TV and radio. Move unneeded items off the table. If having many foods at once confuses them, serve one thing at a time.
- Use solid-colored plates on a contrasting place mat so it's easier to tell them food from their plate and their plate from the table.
- Remind them to chew and swallow, if you need to. Don't hurry. Be patient, and give them plenty of time to eat.
- As it becomes harder for them to eat on their own, try finger foods like tuna sandwiches, steamed broccoli pieces, or orange segments. If swallowing is hard for them, serve softer foods like applesauce, cottage cheese, and scrambled eggs.
- Helping with chores can boost self-esteem. Ask them to dust, sweep, fix things, sort socks, fold laundry, read a recipe for you, or measure when you cook.
- Stay active. Take a walk together every day to keep muscles strong, boost mood, and help with sleep. If hey can't get around well, they may be able to use a stationary bike or resistance bands.
- Playing word games, doing puzzles, talking about current events, or gardening can fuel thinking and memory. Listening to music (and playing "name that tune") can also bring back fond thoughts. Be sensitive -- if you sense they feel frustrated or upset by an activity, try something else.
- If an activity isn't working, it might just be the wrong time. Try it again later.
The outcome of chores or games doesn't matter. The time you spend together and the activities that give joy or meaning to your loved one’s day do.