18: The ABC’s of Alzheimer’s and Dementia for Caregivers

18: The ABC’s of Alzheimer’s and Dementia for Caregivers

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer's & Other Dementias

The ABC’s of Alzheimer’s and Dementia for Caregivers

Approach with a positive attitude, from the front, with a smile. Address the person with the disease by name.

Breathe. Take a deep breath before the visit/encounter. The person will read your essence and body language before he or she can comprehend what you are saying.

Cue the person. Instead of asking “Do you want to put on your sweater?” put yours on and offer to help.

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, diagnosed 60-80 percent of the time.

Every day is a new day. A bad day yesterday does not mean a bad day today. Take it one day at a time.

Follow the lead. If the person with dementia wants to tell the same story or wash the same dish over and over again, let them.

Give the person a purpose. Ask for advice or give him/her a task. Even if it is done wrong, the person will feel worthy and useful.

Honor who the person is now — and who he or she was before the disease.

Investigate. If the person is agitated, he or she may not be able to tell you why. Is she hungry or thirsty? Tired? Does he have to go to the bathroom?

Joy. Revel in the joyful moments. Let those moments fill you up.

Keep eye contact. It establishes trust and helps you make a connection.

Love. Give a lot of love. It makes the person feel safe and cared for.

Mistakes. You will make them. You will say and do the wrong things. Forgive yourself — caregiving is a very hard job.

Never argue with the person with dementia. It causes agitation for both of you and makes everything harder.

Oxygen. Like on an airplane, take your oxygen first. Care for yourself. If you are not a strong, healthy caregiver, you cannot be strong for the person with the disease.

Practice patience. It can take someone with dementia longer to understand your question and come up with an answer.

Quiet. TV, radio, and several conversations at once make it hard for the person to concentrate. Go to a quiet place to visit or connect.

Redirect. If the person is frustrated or upset, try changing the topic or environment. Suggest a favorite activity, or offer some tea or ice cream.

Simple. Keep sentences simple to facilitate communication.

Talk about things from the past. Recent memories will fade more quickly.

Use fiblets. “I have to pick up my daughter from school!” says the eighty-year-old. “Your daughter called, she is staying late to play soccer. Let’s go in here and listen to some music…” Tell a little “fib” and then redirect the conversation.

Validate feelings and thoughts. “Yes, it is Tuesday (even if it’s Friday) but today we are going to do a Friday activity.” Do not tell the person that he or she is wrong.

Walk in the person’s shoes. He or she is frustrated by this disease, too.

eXercise. Go for a walk with the person or do chair exercises. Staying active is good for everyone.

You are not alone. The Alzheimer’s Association has many resources to help, including a 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900), support groups and caregiving courses. Reach out.

Zzzz’s. Let the person rest. This disease is exhausting. For both of you. You rest too.

~Kristen Cusato
former Southwest Regional Director,
Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut Chapter

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