If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia, your role in managing daily tasks will increase as the disease progresses. Consider practical tips that can help the person with dementia participate as much as possible and enable you to manage tasks effectively.
A person with dementia might become agitated when once-simple tasks become difficult. To limit challenges and ease frustration:
- Schedule wisely. Establish a daily routine. Some tasks, such as bathing or medical appointments, are easier when the person is most alert and refreshed. Allow some flexibility for spontaneous activities or particularly difficult days.
- Take your time. Anticipate that tasks may take longer than they used to and schedule more time for them. Allow time for breaks during tasks.
- Involve the person. Allow the person with dementia to do as much as possible with the least amount of assistance. For example, he or she might be able to set the table with the help of visual cues or dress independently if you lay out clothes in the order they go on.
- Provide choices. Provide some, but not too many, choices every day. For example, provide two outfits to choose from, ask if he or she prefers a hot or cold beverage, or ask if he or she would rather go for a walk or see a movie.
- Provide simple instructions. People with dementia best understand clear, one-step communication.
- Limit napping. Avoid multiple or prolonged naps during the day. This can minimize the risk of getting days and nights reversed.
- Reduce distractions. Turn off the TV and minimize other distractions at mealtime and during conversations to make it easier for the person with dementia to focus.
As scary as it sounds, a diagnosis of dementia is not always terrible news. Dementia can be caused by a variety of problems, sometimes something as simple as a vitamin deficiency, or a reaction to a new drug.
What It Is Dementia?
Some forms of dementia can be cured as easily as adjusting a medication prescription or adjusting diet, and may not have permanent effect – especially if the problem is caught in time.
Dementia doesn’t refer to one specific disease. Instead, it refers to a whole host of ailments that affect thought, communication and daily functioning. Diseases categorized under “dementia” often come with serious cognitive declines and the degradation of memory.
Diseases that cause dementia include: Parkinson’s Disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Huntington’s Disease, dementia with Lewy Bodies, vascular dementia, and Alzheimer’s. Most diseases that cause dementia present similarly, almost identically.
However, there are some differences if you know what to look for, especially in the early stages. Early Alzheimer’s disease, for example, is usually characterized by forgetfulness. Other symptoms can include repetition of the same stories and questions, often word for word; confusion; and changes in personality.
With dementia with Lewy Bodies, for instance, patients see a reduced attention span, repeating visual hallucinations, and temporary periods of confusion, as well as rigid muscle movements similar to Parkinson’s Disease. Early Alzheimer’s disease is typically characterized by a forgetfulness not always seen in dementia with Lewy Bodies, although this can vary.
Vascular dementia, which can occur after a heart attack or stroke, is characterized by a marked impairment in judgment in the early stages, although symptoms can vary depending on the part of the brain affected by damaged blood vessels.
Frontotemporal dementia, which is a degeneration of the cells in the brain’s frontal lobes caused by a variety of rarer diseases, is typically characterized by changes in personality in the early stages.
However, the difference between all of these and other causes of dementia can be subtle, even in the early stages, they tend to look more similar as the disease progresses. Usually, when a patient receives an initial diagnosis of dementia, they are getting diagnosed for a set of symptoms, such as when the doctor can see there’s a rash, but does not know whether the underlying cause is a disease, an allergy, or some other ailment.
Doctors can identify the impaired cognition, functioning, or communications that come along with dementia, but it takes more work to discover what is causing these symptoms.
In summary, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can look very similar, but they are not the same. Simply put, Alzheimer’s disease is one out of many causes of dementia. Not all types of dementia are a life sentence, but Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects patients for the rest of their lives, and is one of the worse diagnoses to get. Unfortunately, it is also the most common. Even so, knowing the differences between these two terms can help you plan for the future and understand the progression of your or your loved one’s disease.
Over time, a person with dementia will become more dependent. To reduce frustration, stay flexible and adapt your routine and expectations as needed.For example, if he or she wants to wear the same outfit every day, consider buying a few identical outfits. If bathing is met with resistance, consider doing it less often.
Create a safe environment
Dementia impairs judgment and problem-solving skills, increasing a person’s risk of injury. To promote safety:
- Prevent falls. Avoid scatter rugs, extension cords and any clutter that could cause falls. Install handrails or grab bars in critical areas.
- Use locks. Install locks on cabinets that contain anything potentially dangerous, such as medicine, alcohol, guns, toxic cleaning substances, dangerous utensils and tools.
- Check water temperature. Lower the thermostat on the hot-water heater to prevent burns.
- Take fire safety precautions. Keep matches and lighters out of reach. If the person with dementia smokes, always supervise smoking. Make sure a fire extinguisher is a
Focus on individualized care
Each person with Alzheimer’s disease will experience its symptoms and progression differently. Tailor these practical tips to your family member’s needs. Patience and flexibility — along with self-care and the support of friends and family — can help you deal with the challenges and frustrations ahead.