By Jill Cigliana, MSOT, OTR/L –
Repeat after me …. “I can’t change my loved one with dementia. But I can change the task, the environment or my approach.” Let this mantra be your guide when the going gets rough! As dementia progresses, people with this disease can’t learn new information or establish new ways of doing things. So, what are family caregivers left to do?
Change the task! But how?
- Simplify. Find one or two small steps of an activity that your loved one CAN do. Maybe she can’t do the laundry, but she can fold towels. Perhaps he can’t take a shower independently, but he can wash his face
- Provide set-up for the task by getting all of the necessary items ready for your loved one. If you arrange the shaving supplies neatly on the vanity, he may be able to shave. If you put today’s clothes out on the bed, she may be successful in getting dressed.
- Change the time of day. Plan taxing and tiring activities for the time of day that your loved one has the most energy – usually morning.
Change the environment! But how?
- Clear the clutter. People with dementia can become overwhelmed with visual clutter. Leave out necessities and commonly-used items, and find a new home for everything else.
- Make signs and labels. Label kitchen and bedroom drawers and cabinets to help your loved one find belongings.
- Add lighting. Bright lighting that mimics daylight can improve mood and help your loved one see to complete a task.
- Look for problems. Sometimes people are confused by busy patterns on rugs or furniture, or even by mirrors.
Change my approach! But how?
- Try a statement instead of a question. “Here is your delicious lunch,” instead of, “Are you hungry? What would you like?”
- Provide slow, one-step verbal cues or prompts. People with dementia need lots of extra time to think about what you are saying. Wait for a response.
- Use gestures. If you hold the toothbrush and gesture about tooth-brushing, your loved one may follow your lead.
- Walk away and try again later! If you’re first approach doesn’t work, take a break. Walk away! Put on a smile, and try again like the first attempt never happened.
Repeat your mantra often, and call Memory Care Home Solutions for free, one-on-one training to modify YOUR tasks, environment, and approach.