November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Many of us have experienced the effects of Alzheimer’s and seen the impact it can have on a loved one. This month is the perfect time to raise awareness of the disease and help improve the quality of life for someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Here are five ways that a caregiver or anyone taking care of a loved one can help support those with Alzheimer’s on a daily basis.
1. Stay Calm and Positive. Oftentimes people living with Alzheimer’s can experience mood swings or erratic behavior. In these situations, it is best to remain calm and patiently guide the conversation towards something positive. This can be anything from offering the person a cup of their favorite kind of tea or coffee, to putting on their favorite music, to asking if they’d like to go outside or take a walk. You can also talk about sports teams they like, tell a joke or try to spark a memory and discussion about any past experience that was important to them. The key is to connect with the person in a positive light and distract them from negative emotions.
2. Ensure Sleeping Safety. While those who suffer with memory loss can get a good night’s sleep, they may also sometimes wander at night or experience irregular sleeping patterns. You can help protect them during the evenings by making sure there is a fall mat located next to their bed. Or, if your loved one gets lost looking for the bathroom, you can also purchase low-level lights that sense movement to help them navigate around the house. Additionally, you can set up a tray as a bedtime organizer and stock it with snacks, bottled water and medications, lowering the chance that your loved one will need to leave their bed during the night.
3. Avoid Large Gatherings. Everyone has something that can make them feel overwhelmed and for someone with Alzheimer’s this may be a large social gathering. If the environment is loud and there are too many conversations going on, it can trigger feelings of anxiety or confusion. It may be better to visit with your loved ones in small groups or one-on-one instead of in a large social setting. Taking a walk or reading to someone who has Alzheimer’s are some peaceful activities you can engage in together.
4. Stimulate the Senses. Try to stimulate your loved one’s senses and help stir cherished memories. You can do this by assisting them in various activities, such as baking one of their favorite pastries, coloring in a coloring book or drawing, singing their favorite songs or even playing some games and showing them toys from their childhood.
5. Keep It Simple. If your loved one is living with a condition in which there are challenges remembering things, try to keep conversations very simple. Don’t get frustrated if they have a hard time recalling information or if they only give you a “yes” or “no” answer. Try not to correct someone with Alzheimer’s if they remember something inaccurately because this will only cause them to become more upset. Rather, try to encourage them and focus on the details they want to prioritize. Search for topics that bring them happiness and stick to those as much as possible.
Compassion is key to any relationship but especially when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Maintaining positivity and patience, even in frustrating situations, will go a long way in bringing joy to those who experience memory loss.