by Kim Keller
Here’s a great little tip: check out the “Caregiver Guide: Tips for Caregivers of People with Alzheimer’s Disease.” This 26-page booklet, created by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), is both easy to read and filled with practical advice.
The guide is broken down into 20 essential topics, ranging from communication and dressing to wandering and home safety. Each topic is then addressed with a bullet-point list of five to ten useful advisements. The tips focus on keeping the person with Alzheimer’s calm, functioning and safe. The suggestions generally revolve around these central themes:
Reduce Distractions — Remove extraneous stimulation to help your loved one maintain focus. For example, eliminate all background noises, such as a television or radio, so that only one source of conversation is going when you’re trying to communicate.
Limit Choices — Encourage decision-making whenever possible but keep the choices simple. For example, if picking out clothes to wear for the day, don’t throw open the whole closet — ask “Would you like to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?”
Create a Routine — Have a routine for daily activities like eating, exercising, bathing, sleeping. As with most people, routines tend to provide calm and focus, and no energy is wasted on superfluous decision-making.
Keep It Calm — Try to keep the person’s environment as peaceful, soothing and stress-free as possible. For example, avoid arguments during moments of confusion. Instead, calmly redirect the discussion.
Stay Organized — Plan ahead as much as possible. For example, before assisting with bathing, have everything you need handy so the process will go smoothly and seamlessly, and you never leave your loved one unattended.
Plan for Safety — Make changes to your home, such as securing knives and cleaning supplies, or purchasing appliances with automatic shut-off switches. Wandering is also a major concern, so consider adding chimes to doors, and make sure your loved one has identification with them at all times.
This NIA booklet is filled with wonderful suggestions and information. The last section is a list of organizations, support groups and other services that every Alzheimer’s family should have. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be difficult, even overwhelming at times — this booklet should help reduce stress for everyone involved and make the challenges of AD just a bit more manageable.
Kim Keller is the Co-Founder of In Care of Dad. She lives and works in New York City.