A gradual transition is key1-3
It’s not easy for our loved ones in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to accept that they are no longer able to complete simple everyday tasks. But too much coddling can result in arguments, temper tantrums, depression, and resentment. The best advice for a caregiver just starting out is to transition gradually. Maintaining some independence for your loved one can help prolong his or her ability to think, function, feel, and live normally. Just as important, it will allow you, the caregiver, to transition smoothly, as well. Facing the challenges of Alzheimer’s can be daunting, but there are ways to help your loved one maintain independence as long as possible. Here are some tips:
- Provide purpose – Caregivers have talked about depression being a problem as their loved one’s independence is gradually lost. One of the worst things that can happen is for the person for whom you’re caring to start feeling like more of a burden than a blessing. This is why finding simple, everyday tasks that are easy to complete can be a good way to make sure a sense of purpose and value is not lost. It will help keep up your loved one’s spirits and help him or her hold on to a sense of independence, even as symptoms appear and more assistance is needed over time.
- Encourage independence – Often, caregivers begin to presume their loved one is incapable of performing even the simplest chores of everyday life when, in fact, their loved one is still capable of doing many things. We have come across stories of caregivers being pleasantly surprised that, when given the opportunity to do so, their loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can do things like dress themselves, prepare a small snack, make their bed, etc. Don’t assume incapability; your loved one could surprise you and, the more you encourage his or her independence, the more satisfied and fuller they will feel in their lives. How can you tell? Pay attention to the following:
- Nonverbal cues – Especially as communication becomes more difficult and tougher to discern, it’s important to look for nonverbal cues to assess the understanding your loved one has. Is there a look of confusion when you’re showing him or her a task? Sometimes, gestures can mean a lot more than words and this is especially true for caregivers working with loved ones suffering from any of the stages of Alzheimer’s
- Keep it simple – Caregivers can help loved ones ease away from independence by making daily tasks as easy as possible, enabling a sense of self-reliance to remain longer. Break things down into steps, whenever possible. Set ’em up, so your loved one can knock ’em down, in a sense. What does this mean? If your loved one can’t tie his or her shoes, switch to VELCRO®. Is getting dressed becoming tougher? Lay out clothes and take out the process of selecting and finding all the clothes for a day’s outfit. Try a shower chair and moveable shower hose to prolong independent bathing. And, for more complex tasks, break it down into simple steps. Don’t be surprised if you need to reteach a lot of things
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