It’s important to remember that not all the key brain functions will diminish our loved one at the same time. When we forget or fail to acknowledge the remaining functions, negative actions can become part of our caregiving style. We may:
- Speak to persons with Alzheimer’s disease as if they were a child or simply ignore them when memory fades.
- Laugh at their attempts to communicate, or stop trying to figure out what they want to say as language diminishes.
- Do things for them or refrain from asking them to do things for themselves when they can still complete some complex task.
- Be reluctant to bring them to family gatherings, as social skills diminish.
- Be embarrassed over their actions when reasoning and judgement become faulty.
- Avoid taking them into public, as walking becomes more labored.
- Forget or fail to create a stimulating and aesthetically pleasing environment, as their senses are affected, because we don’t think they are capable of enjoying their surroundings.
When we look for the dignity within persons who have Alzheimer’s disease, we look for ways to help them compensate, cope, and adapt to their ever-changing lifestyle. We remember that the ability to self-reflect will continue despite the disease. Finding ways to empower persons to continue to be productive and of value in life will be part of our new mindset. We might:
- Find pictures and ask them questions about what they remember about the pictures to help trigger their long-term memory when their short-term memory fade.
- Play games, such as having them identify objects around the house to stimulate language as long as possible and converse with them in their native language.
- Think about activities, such as painting, taking pictures, gardening or other hobbies. The ability to perform complete tasks that have been learned early will remain throughout the course of the disease.
- Invite people to call on the phone on a regular basis, or take walks or set the routine to visit a local restaurant to keep socializing.
- Accept the fact that inconsistencies exist in reasoning and judgement and know that we will have to make decisions to keep them safe.
- Find safe places to walk or take drives in the car and play games to stimulate movement.
- Play music, continue to decorate the house for the holidays, or simply set a nice table to provide a stimulating environment that will appeal to the senses.
In part three of our series, “Something is Wrong… Early to Mild Stage Alzheimer’s Disease”, we will talk about the changes that occur in the brain and later, share some tips that can help the caregiver.