Helpful Hints for Interacting with People with Memory Loss
It is important to understand the different types of memory storage because a person with severe or progressive memory loss may have one kind of memory loss and not another. For example, people with brain damage on their left side (the left hemisphere holds verbal or word memory) may not be able to remember a shopping list. Or they may not be able to remember the words in a conversation. However, they may be able to use their visual skills (the right hemisphere stores nonverbal memories). For example, they may remember the faces of people they meet at the store.
A person with a great deal of damage on the right side of the brain may not be able to remember and follow directions to a friend’s house but may be able to remember conversations.
1. Organize – Keep items that are alike in the same place. For example, keep all keys on one ring.
2. The Same Place – Make a list of items that tend to get lost and decide where to keep them. Once you decide where you are going to put items, keep them in the same place. Keep shoes by the side door or in the bed-room closet. Wear your eyeglasses or keep them on your bureau top. If you can afford a second pair of eyeglasses, keep one pair for home use and the other pair in your purse or jacket for outside activities.
3. The Same Time – Do a particular activity at the same time each day. For example, awaken and get out of bed the same time each morning. Brush or clean your teeth at the same times each day. Take your medicine at the same time each day. Try to set aside a particular day each week for special tasks, like shopping for food on Thursdays.
4. Remove Clutter – Give or throwaway odds and ends, extra end tables, many knickknacks, piles of old newspapers, broken tools, worn out shoes, pencil stubs, and anything unusable or not in current use. If you have not used it or worn it within the past year, get rid of it. Have a garage sale!
5. Concrete Cues – If somebody has problems with word memory, use concrete cues, such as visual helps, on a regular basis. A visual help, such as a picture of dishes on the door of a kitchen cabinet, may help the person remember where to find a dish. It may take time for the caregiver to make these changes, such as applying picture labels, but more time and effort will be saved over the long run.
6. Other visual helps include showing or pointing. For example, point to the object or the destination, such as going to the front room window and pointing outdoors to the newspaper or mailbox. Another way of cuing is to accompany the person with memory loss to the actual place and point out landmarks to remember along the way.
7. Show Them and Have Them Practice – People with declarative or fact memory problems may have good procedural (how to) memory. Instead of telling a person with memory loss what to do, show them how to do something and have them practice. For example, after they practice unrolling the garden hose, watering the plants, and rewinding the garden hose a few times, they may remember how to water the garden. Keeping busy helps a person with dementia to feel useful and it provides exercise. During these activities, the caregiver has time for other responsibilities.
Hellful Hints for People with Severe or Progressive Memory
Even though there are no medical treatments for curing severe memory impairments, changing the way things are done at home can help. People with memory problems do best when they have a lot of hints or reminders to help them figure things out. Saying you are “making sandwiches for lunch time” tells them what meal is coming next. Also, telling time in terms of purpose-such as lunch time, bath time, or bedtime-may have more meaning than using numbers, such as one o’clock.
People with severe memory disorders do not function as well when there are many changes and surprises. Often they get upset when there are changes in their usual routine. Caregivers should under-stand this and see that the routine changes as little as possible from day to day.
1. Reminders Help – Talk frequently about important information, such as the next thing to be done or events that are coming up. It is best to talk casually about these things in the natural flow of conversation. Try not to make the person feel foolish as if they cannot remember. Reminding them in any way of their poor memory will probably upset them.
2. Keep Clocks and Calendars Handy – Leaving the curtains open during the day will help them keep track of the day-night cycle of time. At the end of each day, cross the day off the calendar so that in the morning, the new day is clear.
3. Use Old Photographs and Songs – People with severe memory problems usually remember events that happened long ago. Family heirlooms, old photos or old songs from their teen years may be comforting to them and should be kept handy. Sometimes these mementos remind them of fun times and friends. These memories can calm down a restless or angry person. The person becomes caught up in the happy mood of the memento and stays that way for a while. When an old photo or song creates sadness or anger, distract the person immediately with a new activity-go to a different room, get a drink of juice, or go for a walk (indoors or outdoors).
4. Limit Choices – The fewest number of items should be kept available; extras should be put away or stored. For example, a kitchen drawer should hold a few spoons and forks. The extra utensils should be stored and unavailable. In the clothes closet there could be two pairs of shoes, two shirts, and a pair of pants. Extra clothes should be kept in a separate, locked closet.
5. Choices could be limited to one item. As much as possible, the caregiver should honor the preferences of the person with the memory disorder. The person has the right to choose. It helps to use “Do you want” questions.
“Do yo want to wear the black shoes?”
“Do you want to wear the brown shoes?”
6. Night Lights – People with severe memory problems often have trouble at night. A night light may help them know where they are if they wake up to use the bathroom. A night light may also keep them from tripping over the edges of furniture and falling.
7. Changes in Sense Systems – People with severe memory problems have trouble when their sense systems change they cannot see, hear, taste, smell, or feel as well as before. When not tuned in to the sights, smells, sounds, etc. around them, people become information-deprived and may suffer in physical or emotional health. Caregivers should make sure that people who need eyeglasses or hearing aids use them. Extra flavoring or seasoning may help food taste better. Taking time to feel the chair may help them to sit safely. Appropriate touching and hugs can satisfy skin hunger, the need all people have for contact or touch from another individual.
8. Show Them How – As discussed before, a person with memory prob-lems may have a strong procedural (how to) memory even when the declarative (fact) memory is very weak. Instead of telling a person with memory loss what to do, show them how to do something and have them practice. Many people with severe memory problems cannot remember the facts of where and when something happened (declarative memory), such as where and when they bought a shirt. At the same time, they may remember how to put on the shirt (procedural memory). Thus, people with progressive memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease may be able to learn new skills by practicing in small steps how something is done. It may take them a few weeks to learn a new skill that someone else may be able to pick up in a few minutes. The sense of pride, of feeling capable, a bit self-sufficient and independent, is worth the effort.
9. Routine Versus Change – Specific routines should be set as often as possible. The same activities done the same way every day, such as dressing before breakfast or watering plants before lunch, are easier for people with memory loss to understand and follow. If there is a change in plans, such as a visit to the doctor or a vacation, it is important to tell and repeat the information before the event. A positive, pleasant style of approach with a smile should help. During such changes other parts of the daily routine, such as mealtimes or taking a walk, should stay at the same time to provide some stability.
source: Helping People with Progressive Memory Disorders: A Guide For You And Your Family, 2nd ed.
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13 Ways to Ease Caregiver Stress During the Holidays
The holidays can cause feelings of stress to soar! For millions of Americans who find themselves in the role of caregiver to an older frail, ill, or disabled relative, the holiday season can add to an already heavy load of responsibilities and cause feelings of stress to soar.
Stress occurs when we work too much, sleep too little, try to cope with difficult or troubling situations, and when we neglect to take good care of ourselves—all of which are typically everyday state of conditions for the millions of Americans who find themselves in the role of caregiver to an older frail, ill, or disabled relative. The added physical and emotional demands that are involved in celebrating the holidays can add to an already heavy load of caregiving responsibilities and cause feelings of stress to soar.
The holidays are traditionally a time when we reflect on past memories. For those who are caring for a frail and elderly family member, these reflections often deepen the awareness of the extent of the older person’s losses (for example, memory loss for those with Alzheimer’s) and how much life has changed for them. Holiday-time reminiscing can also underscore the loss caregivers face in the altered quality of their personal relationship with the older person. The emotional pain of confronting such losses can heighten feelings of stress.
The holidays are also a traditional time for family gatherings. While this can be tremendously enjoyable, when tensions among family members or unresolved conflicts surface, it can become a source of extreme stress. Caregivers too often find themselves in the middle of family discord as they try to mediate the needs of the older person as well as express their own position.
13 Ways to Ease Caregiver Stress During the Holiday’s
If you are a family caregiver, consider the 13 suggestions and think about which ones you can put in place during the coming weeks to help ease your feelings of stress during the holidays:
- Set manageable expectations and limits for yourself. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do—as well as what you want to do and don’t want to do.
- Try not to set yourself up for disappointment by comparing this year’s holiday season with the nostalgia of past holidays. Each holiday season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way.
- Ask for and accept help! It’s so often the case that, while people want to be useful, they may not always know what to do. Let other family members and friends know what they can do to share in the responsibility of caregiving. Don’t forget to consider asking people who live at a distance, as well as neighbors and people from faith-based groups or clubs, to pitch in and help.
- Maintain or establish social interaction with friends and other family members. Isolation can further increase feelings of stress. Having the chance to have fun, laugh, and focus on something other than your at-home caregiving responsibilities can help you keep stress at bay and maintain emotional balance.
- Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely. There’s room for feelings such as sadness, grief and/or loneliness to be present along with other more joyful emotions. If you do feel down, avoid critical self-perceptions, and, instead, try to articulate the understanding you need from those around you. Consider seeking the help of a therapist to help you sort out your feelings and deal with your concerns and troubling issues.
- If the elderly person you are caring for has dementia, avoid overly stimulating environments since that can add to their anxiety and end up increasing your stress level.
- If including the elderly person in large family gatherings creates added work and stress for you, consider alternatives, such as suggesting family members plan to spend individual quality time visiting with their elderly relative.
- Don’t abandon healthful eating and drinking habits. While it’s certainly okay to treat yourself during the holidays, avoid giving in to stress-driven urges for overeating or for overindulging in alcohol.
- Exercise regularly. Even if it means finding someone else to take over your caregiver duties, getting regularly-scheduled exercise—for example, walking, swimming, yoga, biking, or aerobics—can be of tremendous benefit to both your physical and emotional well-being.
- Seek emotional and moral support from other caregivers—there is great strength in knowing you are not alone. Many communities have support groups for family caregivers of elderly persons through local hospitals, churches and/or community centers.
- Use community resources such as meal or shopping services, home-care aides, adult day services, and/or volunteer help from faith-based organizations or civic groups.
- Try to find time for yourself to do something you especially enjoy such as reading, walking, listening to music, gardening and/or visiting with a friend.
- Find ways to ensure you get enough rest. Sleep deprivation can sap your energy, distort your thinking and lead directly to making your mind and your body feel stressed to the maximum.
If you experience any signs of depression (for example, extreme sadness, trouble concentrating, withdrawal, or hopelessness), don’t delay in getting professional help for yourself. Depression is a serious, but very treatable condition. If left untreated, depression does not “just go away,” instead, the symptoms progressively worsen and can even become debilitating.
Throughout the holiday season (as well as year-round!), remember to be good to yourself. As a family caregiver, you’re doing a very hard job and deserve understanding, support and quality time for yourself to help ensure you meet your own emotional needs.
Alzheimer’s Activities – 6 Things To Do With Alzheimer’s Patients
Finding things that you can do with the person that has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia should be based on the persons ability as well as the time you can devote to the activity itself.
Here are 6 types of activities that the person with Alzheimer’s might enjoy:
1. Physical activities: Take a walk, toss a ball, lift light weights, wash the car
2. Social activities: Talk, play cards or board games, visit friends, go out for coffee or a meal
3. Creative activities: Paint, play a musical instrument.
4. Intellectual activities: read a book, do a cross word puzzle
5. Work related activities: Type, make notes, fix something.
6. Spiritual activities: Pray, attend a service, sing a hymn.
Planning activities for the person with Alzheimer’s disease is best when you can continually explore, experiment and adjust. Always consider the person’s strengths and abilities; as well as their likes and dislikes.
source: Alzheimer’s Association
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