November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than six million older adults live with Alzheimer’s dementia in the United States. Deaths caused by Alzheimer’s and dementia have increased by sixteen percent during the COVID pandemic. If you have an aging loved one in your life, the chances of them suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are rather high.
As devastating as it is to receive a dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it does not mean the person’s life is over. Most older adults live an average of four to eight years after receiving their diagnosis. There are many ways a family member can support their aging loved one as the disease progresses. If you have an aging loved one living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, here are a few ways you can help them navigate their everyday lives.
Recognize Their Present Reality
A person with Alzheimer’s disease is not always living in the current moment. Their reality may include previous jobs, former family or friends who have passed away, or places they used to live. As you spend time with them, learn to recognize their present reality. Meet them there and avoid the urge to correct them. You will only cause more agitation as their reality is real to them. Instead, redirect the conversation if they become fixated on past events that have no bearing on today.
It takes longer for a person with Alzheimer’s disease to process information, retrieve words, and formulate their response. When engaging in conversation, remember to slow down. Speak slower and with clarity. Eliminate unnecessary background noise, so there’s less for their brain to process. Give them time to respond before repeating yourself. If they seem confused, ask the question in another way, or provide prompts to help them answer.
Establish a Familiar Routine
A person with Alzheimer’s disease thrives on a familiar routine. It helps them know what to expect each day. Help your aging loved one establish a familiar routine that fits their lifestyle. Ensure they eat meals around the same time each day. Make sure they go to bed at a decent hour. Include daily exercise, such as a walk. Establish a rhythm that works well with your loved one. While every day doesn’t need to look exactly the same, having a familiar routine will help your loved one navigate everyday life.
Engage in Reminiscence
As mentioned above, a person with Alzheimer’s disease may not always be living in our current reality. A great way to meet them where they are is to engage in reminiscence. When they ask about something from their past, redirect the conversation towards reminiscence. Ask them to tell you more about that person or place. Reminisce about seasons, holiday traditions, favorite vacations, or family memories. Use photographs or seasonal props to enhance the experience.
Identify Triggers of Agitation
A person with Alzheimer’s disease can easily become agitated or anxious. While these behaviors are common, it’s possible to avoid them altogether. Hunger, tiredness, restlessness, and/or change are often the triggers to anxiety or agitation. Learn to identify what triggers your loved one’s agitation or anxiety. Do they become agitated right before mealtimes? Perhaps they need a healthy snack to prevent hypoglycemia. Do they seem restless in the evenings? Perhaps they need to go for a walk to help them balance their emotions. Keep a busy box nearby to give them something to do when they seem anxious. Folding towels, sorting a deck of cards, or matching colorful socks can help them restore a sense of calm.
Senior Living Solutions understands the challenges families face when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It can be overwhelming to determine the best place for your aging loved one to live as their disease progresses. Our mission is to relieve the stress and ease the burden of finding the best senior living options for our clients. We pride ourselves in helping families find alternatives to nursing homes for their aging loved ones. Whether you’re interested in pursuing memory care facilities or would rather hire in-home care, we can walk you through which option might best suit your aging loved one. Our agents are familiar with the nuances of the senior care environment and can offer valuable input at no cost to you, or your aging loved one. To learn more, please get in touch with us today by calling 501-650-3013.