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 he can on his own. This helps him keep his sense of independence. Break down tasks into small steps, or even write out easy-to-follow directions.
Use this checklist to help you help him with daily care:
- Show him how to brush his teeth step by step, or brush yours at the same time. Try an angled, long-handled, or electric toothbrush if you're brushing for him.
- If a woman wants to wear makeup, encourage it. Help her with lipstick and powder, if she wants. Skip eye makeup if it seems too hard for her 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 he has trouble getting in and out of the tub, try sponge baths.
- To help relax him during bathing, play calming music and tell him what you are doing each step of the way.
- Give him as much privacy as you can. Put a towel over his shoulders and lap. Clean under the towel with a washcloth or sponge.
- If she tends to get anxious and hitting is a problem, give her a washcloth to hold. She'll be less likely to strike and may calm down.
- Make it easier for him to dress on his own. Lay out his clothes in the order he puts them on, or hand him one piece of clothing at a time.
- If he wants to wear the same clothes every day, don't fight it. Buy 3 or 4 sets of them.
- Make sure he has 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 him, serve one thing at a time.
- Use solid-colored plates on a contrasting place mat so it's easier to tell her food from her plate and her plate from the table.
- Remind him to chew and swallow, if you need to. Don't hurry. Be patient, and give him plenty of time to eat.
- As it becomes harder for him to eat on his own, try finger foods like tuna sandwiches, steamed broccoli pieces, or orange segments. If swallowing is hard for him, serve softer foods like applesauce, cottage cheese, and scrambled eggs.
- Helping with chores can boost self-esteem. Ask him 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 he can't get around well, he 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 he feels 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.