Alzheimer’s disease can make ordinary, day-to-day activities challenging. Here are some tips to make daily tasks easier for the patient, the caregivers and the family.
Dementia can make getting dressed a very frustrating experience.
Make it part of a routine. Help the person with Alzheimer’s to get dressed at the same time every morning.
Don’t offer too many choices. Offer the person with Alzheimer’s a couple of outfits to choose from every morning. Remove formal wear and seasonal inappropriate choices from the closet so they won’t make things more complicated
Direct the process. Layout all the garments for the day in the order they should be put on. Or hand them their clothing one piece at a time and offer instructions for putting each one on.
Respect their likes and dislikes. If they never want to wear a particular piece of clothing, retire it. If they love a certain outfit and want to wear it more often than others, don’t argue against it.
Be patient. Trying to rush the process will only increase frustration levels and could cause anxiety.
Bathing can be confusing, scary and a cause of great anxiety for a person with Alzheimer’s. Having a bathing plan can improve the experience for everyone.
Determine how they want to bathe. Would they prefer to take a shower or get in the bathtub? Do they like to bathe in the morning or at night? Experiment and see what works.
Respect their privacy. If they are modest or feel self-conscious about being naked accommodate that. Have towels or robes readily available to cover up so they feel safe.
Make them comfortable. Ensure that the bathroom is warm enough for them. Make sure there are plenty of clean, dry towels. Keep outside noise to a minimum.
Communicate. Explain everything as you do it. Go over each step of the bathing process as it occurs to help them understand what’s happening and why. Give them a sense of being in control of the situation.
Be flexible. If a daily bathing routine is causing too much trauma, scale down the number of baths or showers for a while. Provide a sponge bath as an alternative.
Using the toilet
Incontinence can become an issue as Alzheimer’s progresses. Helping them to maintain a sense of dignity is important.
Make the bathroom very visible. Ensure that the bathroom is easy to find by labelling it. Post a sign on the bathroom door or post an image of a toilet on it. Use night lights to help the person with Alzheimer’s find their way to the bathroom at night.
Watch for cues. Shifting in their seat, restlessness or tugging on clothing might be signalling a need to use the toilet.
Create a schedule. Schedule bathroom trips for every few hours, before and after meals, and before bedtime. Don’t wait for the person with Alzheimer’s to let you know.
Choose clothing that is easy to remove. Replace buttons or zippers on garments with velcro, or choose clothing with an elastic waist.
Be relaxed about accidents. Praise successful trips to the bathroom — and be kind and reassuring when accidents happen.
A person with Alzheimer’s may not remember to eat — or why it’s important to eat at all. Meals can be very challenging.
Schedule meals. Don’t wait for them to ask to eat. A person with Alzheimer’s may no longer recognize hunger or thirst for what they are.
Limit distractions at mealtime. Turn off the TV, the radio and the phone. Clear any unnecessary items off of the table. Focus only on dining.
Choose finger foods. Cut food into bite-sized pieces or stick to finger foods. Avoid serving foods that can be challenging to chew or swallow, like nuts or raw vegetables.
Use plain white dishes. Plain dishes can make it easier for the person with Alzheimer’s to distinguish the food from the plate. Using a placemat in a contrasting colour can also help them distinguish the plate from the table. Avoid dishes or table linens with a pattern.
Provide one food item at a time. If a full plate of food is proving to be overwhelming, provide one item or type of food at a time. Or, try serving several small meals over the course of the day instead of three meals.
Eat together. Make mealtime a social experience. That can be enough to turn a challenging experience into an enjoyable event that the person with Alzheimer’s can look forward to.
Above all, be compassionate and patient. Caring for a person with dementia requires a lot of flexibility and creativity. When one approach to a day-to-day task stops working, try a new one.
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