Understanding and Coping with the Everyday Challenges of Your Loved One with Memory Loss
Because Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive degenerative disorder that affects healthy brain tissue, caregivers can expect their loved ones to experience increasing difficulties with performing the normal activities of daily living. As a result, the responsibilities of caregivers for meeting the everyday safety and health needs of their loved ones will also increase.
In light of the changes that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia cause, it is highly important for you as a caregiver to understand the nature of memory loss and the specific ways it impacts your loved one’s life. With this knowledge, you will be in the best position to assist them, to respect their dignity, to prepare yourself for the unexpected and to surround them with a supportive environment that promotes their overall well-being.
Knowledge and Understanding are the Best Preparation
Ms. Shellie Kermin, Community Relations Director of North Woods Village at Edison Lakes says, “It is important for you to recognize and prepare for the fact that your loved one’s basic abilities will decline with time. Examples include their ability to: make rational decisions; remember the day and month; take medications; manage money; recall events and places; and communicate with others. People with memory loss will also require assistance with the necessities of daily life, such as bathing, eating, dressing and using the bathroom.”
“A caregiver’s life can be a very difficult one, but experts offer useful suggestions for dealing with the challenges. The Alzheimer’s Association article, “Tips for Daily Life,” provides useful coping strategies for recently diagnosed loved ones, and the Mayo Clinic offers useful tips for caregivers for understanding and dealing with their loved one’s daily needs.”
Advice for Dealing with Your Loved One’s Daily Challenges
InThe Mayo Clinic article, “Alzheimer’s: Dealing with Daily Challenges,” their medical experts review the common problems of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and provide the following useful advice for caregivers.
Bathing – Bathing can be a frightening, confusing experience for a person who has Alzheimer’s. Having a plan can help make the experience better for both of you.
- Establish a routine – Some people like showers, while others prefer tub baths. Time of day is often important as well.
- Keep them comfortable – Make sure the bathroom is warm and keep towels or bath blankets handy.
- Respect their privacy – If your loved one is self-conscious, provide a towel for cover when they get in and out of the shower or tub.
- Remain flexible – If daily bathing is traumatic, alternate showers or tub baths with sponge baths.
Dressing – The physical and mental impairment of Alzheimer’s can make dressing a frustrating experience.
- Have a set schedule – Help your loved one get dressed at the same time each day.
- Limit clothing options – Offer no more than two clothing options each morning. Empty their closets and drawers of rarely worn clothes that could complicate the decision.
- Give direction and simplify – Lay out clothing in the order they should be put on, or hand out clothing one piece at a time as you provide short, simple dressing instructions.
- Have patience – Rushing your loved one could cause stress and anxiety.
- Be considerate of your loved one’s preferences – Don’t argue if your loved one doesn’t want to wear a particular item or chooses something you may not care for.
Eating – A person with Alzheimer’s might not remember when they last ate, or why it is important to eat.
- Eat at regularly scheduled times – Don’t rely on your loved one to ask for food – they might not respond to hunger or thirst.
- Use white dishes – Plain white dishes can make it easier for your loved one to distinguish the food from the plate.
- Offer foods one at a time – If your loved one is overwhelmed by an entire plateful of food, place just one type of food at a time on the plate. You could also offer several small meals throughout the day.
- Cut food into bite-sized portions – Finger foods are even easier, but avoid foods that can be difficult to chew and swallow, such as nuts, popcorn and raw carrots.
- Limit distractions – Turn off the television, radio and telephone ringer and eliminate any other distractions during mealtimes.
- Make meals an enjoyable social event – Eat togetherso that your loved one looks forward to the experience.\
Using the Bathroom – As Alzheimer’s progresses, problems with incontinence often occur. Keep in mind that it is very important to help your loved one maintain their sense of dignity.
- Make the bathroom easy to find – Post a sign on the bathroom door that says “Toilet,” or post a picture of a toilet. Use night lights to help your loved one find their way to the bathroom at night.
- Be alert for telltale signs – Restlessness or tugging on clothing might signal the need to use the bathroom.
- Create a schedule – Planbathroom breaks every few hours, before and after meals, and before bedtime. Do not wait for your loved one to ask.
- Make clothing “bathroom friendly” – Replace zippers and buttons with fabric fasteners and use pants with elastic waistbands.
- Be patient – Accidents happen! Praise their successes and offer reassurance when accidents happen.
By following these expert tips and continuing to educate yourself about the progressive changes caused by memory loss, you will be most effective as a caregiver and your loved one will have the increased sense of calm, comfort and security they need.
Help Is Available for Caregivers
Today, a variety of resources is available to assist caregivers who are caring for their loved ones at home, including Alzheimer’s Association services, support groups, self-help guides, Respite Care services, in-home support, community-based services and educational programs. Progressive residential Memory Care Communities (MCCs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, offer a variety of educational programs, support and special events designed to help family caregivers.
Guiding. Caring. Inspiring.
For caregivers who recognize that the needs of their loved one are beyond what they can safely and appropriately provide in the home environment, leading, residential Memory Care Assisted Living Communities (MCALs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes and its “NEW DIRECTIONS”SM program in Mishawaka, IN, provide the full continuum of services that have been shown to improve health and well-being, support brain health and delay the progression of memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
At North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, we believe senior adults thrive in an environment that offers an active, vibrant lifestyle with a variety of activities that engage the mind, body and spirit. Our “NEW DIRECTIONS”SM provides a safe, professional environment and proven, best-practice programs and services specifically designed to address the total physical, emotional and social needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other serious form of memory impairment.