A common concern for older adults, especially for those who are adjusting to a new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other dementia, is the fear of losing independence. Yet thankfully, there are a number of simple techniques you can use to foster as much independence as possible in your loved one throughout the progression of the disease.
Using memory prompting strategies early on can help your loved one develop patterns of behavior that can maximize safety and independence, as well self-confidence. The most important rule is to avoid taking over activities for the person with dementia. Instead, encourage the continuation of activities and personal care tasks, even if these take longer or are messier, such as allowing your loved one to feed herself.
Having a routine is one of the best memory prompts. Patterns of behavior become an aid to memory and help a person with dementia feel secure and less anxious, too.
Write It Down
Your loved one should use a daily diary for as long as possible, to write down the everyday tasks, household duties and activities that she has arranged or wants to do. She can also use them for thoughts and ideas. Family members or caregivers can add in activities or ‘must do’s’ on the list as well.
Use Bulletin Boards
Your loved one can pin reminders, timetables, ideas, schedules, and lists to bulletin boards, which provide great visual reminders. Helpers or caregivers can also put reminders of activities that she has scheduled, the date and day, and an inspiring verse or phrase.
Use Labels to Remind and Identify
Put labels on things to remind your loved one where things are stored, identify possessions, or accomplish specific tasks.
Consistently Use Address and Personal Phone Books
Keep your loved one’s phone and address book by the phone with important numbers written prominently on one page. She can also keep a notebook right by the phone to keep track of who she called, when the call was made, and what the conversation was about.
Make Use of Technology
Consider setting up electronic prompt services such as texts or reminders in your loved one’s phone calendar. These types of services can be used for reminders and cues of things that need to be done, such as taking medications or attending an important social gathering or meeting.
Organize Important Objects Together
Attempt to get your loved one into the habit of putting keys, money and glasses in the same place. This can help her keep track of these items more easily.
Use Clocks with Date Displays
Having clocks with date displays in every room helps your loved one identify the time and date of the day and can trigger her memory for activities that are scheduled at certain times. Frequent reminders of the day, date and time will increase orientation.
Read Daily Newspapers, News Sites, or Social Media Pages
News sites not only keep your loved one in touch with current events but also act as a reminder for the day of the week. Staying up-to-date on current events can provide cognitive stimulation and allow her to more relevantly interact with others. Interestingly, some research found that older adults who spent time on Facebook demonstrated improvements in their memory.
Make Changes in the Bathroom
Using a raised toiled seat with contrasting colors will help your loved one stay independent longer in using the toilet. Install grab bars in the bathroom and hand-held shower handles as well.
Make Dressing and Undressing Easy
Use of clothing that is easy to get on and off without zippers or buttons make all the difference. Choose clothing items with elastic waistbands and replace buttons and snaps with Velcro. Speak with your Nightingale Homecare team about adaptive devices to help make dressing/undressing easier for everyone.
The goal for each of us is to maintain autonomy throughout aging, and that goal doesn’t change with a dementia diagnosis. Our specialized Connections dementia care program is a great place to start to help a senior loved one with dementia to live life to the fullest. Contact us for a free in-home consultation to learn more about our expert memory care Peoria and the surrounding areas trust!