Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be challenging – especially for those providing full time care to their loved ones. Your loved one may seem perfectly fine and lucid one day and in a completely different space the next. Although difficult, the time spent with your loved one means the world to them – even if they cannot express that feeling.
Before we continue, we want you to know that you are not alone and there are resources available to support caregivers just like you. At Catholic Care Center, we provide Adult Day Programs for adults with dementia. Our programs are available for half or full-day accommodation with wellness-focused activities, round the clock nursing staff, nutritious meals, and more.
If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, it is key to establish routines to help them feel comfortable and reinforce feelings of familiarity. Within these routines, it is extremely important that you include stimulating activities that help slow cognitive decline.
Below we have outlined activities you can do with your loved one and a few tips for caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.
Tips for Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s
- Choose simple words and short sentences.
- Use a calm tone of voice and ask questions with a positive tone.
- Allow enough time for them to form thoughts and do not to interrupt them.
- Do not use baby-talk
- Do not use phrases like, “Try to remember,” or ask questions like, “Do you remember?”
- Address them by name and make eye contact to ensure that they are engaged.
- Maintain structure and familiarity
- Let your loved one know what to expect
- Use cues to communicate routines i.e. opening curtains in the morning or turning on soothing music at night
- Involve them as much as possible by giving them manageable daily tasks i.e. sweeping, wiping the counter, putting clothes in the hamper, making toast, etc.
Medication Administration and Management
- Give medication during the time of day when they are most calm.
- Administer medication in a calm environment.
- Use short sentences and don’t try to explain or reason.
- Try again in 10-15 minutes if difficulties arise.
- If pills are difficult to swallow, ask the doctor about alternatives i.e. liquid medication or smaller options.
It is also important to take your loved one in for regular check ups and appointments as the disease progresses. A physician may suggest new medications or programs that can help manage symptoms and slow decline.
Caring for Yourself
- Ask for help when you need it i.e. adult day programs or professional assistance with care.
- Find a support group.
- Give yourself grace (not everything will be perfect and that’s okay).
- Implement relaxation techniques into your routine.
- Take time for yourself and do things you enjoy
Activities for Adults with Alzheimer’s
Stimulating activities are important for those with Alzheimer’s. The right activities can:
- Encourage self-expression
- Foster emotional connection
- Lessen any anxiety and stress
- Reduce irritability
- Help with memory retention
You will want to choose activities that are manageable and won’t cause stress or anxiety. Remember that comfort should always be top of mind when engaging with someone who has Alzheimer’s. If you start to see that the activity is causing your loved one irritability or stress, move onto something else.
Painting is a fantastic activity for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s. Artistic engagement may help to ease symptoms of dementia like anxiety, agitation and depression. Painting is a great way for your loved one to channel their emotions without having to use their words. There is also something relaxing about brushing wet paint on a canvas and creating something special may help improve mood and boost confidence.
If you choose to paint with your loved one, keep supplies and tools simple. For more mild cases, you can try to follow an easy painting tutorial video but it is best to just let the mind choose what it wants to paint as a form of self expression.
Work on a Puzzle
Puzzles are great for those with Alzheimer’s. Puzzles give the brain something to focus on and many use them as a way to manage anxiety.
Studies have suggested that it may be beneficial to encourage those with Alzheimer’s disease to do puzzles. These studies have also shown that those who do puzzles perform better on tests related to memory than those who don’t. Puzzles also improve visual perception and visual recognition – both of which decline as the disease progresses.
Puzzles also have varying degrees of difficulty making it easy to choose one that is manageable for your loved one depending on the severity of their condition.
Get Outside and Enjoy the Weather
A little fresh air and change of scenery can do wonders for mental health. Whether you choose to go on a walk with your loved one or just sit on a bench outside and watch the birds, they will enjoy the time outside of the home.
Sunlight triggers a release of the hormone serotonin in the brain. This particular hormone is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm. Low levels of serotonin are associated with major depression with seasonal pattern. So, when weather permits, encourage your loved one to go outside with you and soak up some rays.
Spending time outdoors is something that you easily can work into regular daily routines. For example, a daily 10-15 minute walk can have a big impact on mood and disposition. If you are in the middle of summer and temperatures are high, plan your walks or outdoor time for early morning to avoid overheating and don’t forget the sunscreen!
Read From Their Favorite Book
If your loved one was an avid reader before, this is a great activity to incorporate into their routine and can be adjusted based on how severe their condition is.
For individuals who still have the ability to read on their own, you can buy them their favorite books (new or used) with larger print. For those who are experiencing the more moderate stages of dementia, you can read aloud to them from their favorite book and ask them questions at the end of each chapter to encourage memory retention. You can also download audio versions of their favorite books and listen to those with them.
In the later stages of dementia, it is recommended that you share things like familiar magazines and books with a lot of pictures with them. You can discuss the images with your loved one and share thoughts on what is on the page.
Play a Game
Studies demonstrate that card games and board games are effective in stimulating memory and help promote brain health. Games also promote the use of visualization, memory and sequencing skills.
Choose games that are the same or similar to games your loved one enjoyed in the past. If they enjoyed playing cards in the past, games like bridge, go fish, gin rummy, and poker all help promote brain health.
Are cards not their thing? Games like checkers, dominoes, scrabble, and bingo are all great choices and stimulate the mind.
Look at Photos
No matter what stage of Alzheimer’s your loved one is experiencing, visual aids like family photos can help stir memories and allows those living with the disease to reminisce about pleasant times in their lives. Looking at photos can also help them engage in the present moment as you converse about who is in the photo and what was going on at the time.
There are several ways to go about this activity. You can look back at photo albums, create a memory box that contains photos and mementos, or an online album. For more severe cases, we suggest using an online album or just looking at one physical photo at a time as seeing multiple pictures in a physical photo album may be overwhelming for some.
Caring for a loved one with dementia, while dealing with work and other obligations is tough but we have resources to help ease some of that stress. If you choose to enroll your loved one in our adult day program, you’ll be able to put them in trusted hands while you take some time for yourself. Caring for someone with dementia is a compassionate and selfless act of love, but it’s important to remember to focus on your own well being, also.
How We Can Help
The nationally recognized adult day program at our organization offers many activities and services to seniors with dementia. The expertly crafted wellness program ranges from intergenerational enrichment programs to daily outings and trips. The center has nurses who are qualified to work with dementia patients and understand the specific care that these patients require. Click below to learn more about our program.