Alzheimer's disease is a devastating condition that affects
approximately 1-2% of the general population. It is one of several
conditions that are called dementias, accounting for about 50% of
reported cases of dementias.
While the symptoms and outcomes of
Alzheimer's disease are very serious, the assumption that people
with the disease can no longer function is incorrect and unfair.
People in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's are certainly very
limited, but many other people can still be active with a little
help from family or friends.
Your ability to help a loved one or friend with Alzheimer's
disease be as active as possible rests with the approach you take
with her. By following these steps, you can greatly enhance your
chances of success.
1. Keep it simple - break tasks such as cooking or performing
personal hygiene down into specific milestones that can be followed
in order. For example, telling someone with Alzheimer's to cook an
omelet will be overwhelming to her and will probably not succeed
while instructing the person to perform each specific task that goes
into making the omelet will be easier to follow and less stressful.
2. Be calm and reassuring - people with Alzheimer's disease can
be very sensitive to the feelings of others and will react
negatively to irritation or impatience.
3. Familiarity and repetition - do not give up if the person does
not succeed with the task or activity the first time. Repeating the
task over time will often improve her ability to complete it
4. Do not argue or attempt to convince - if the person is not
receptive to a task, do not push her too hard to do it. At this
point, it is best to redirect her to something more familiar and
safer and then try again with the original task at a later time.
5. Plan the activities - spontaneity is not a good approach to
take with someone with Alzheimer's disease. Plan activities
carefully and minimize interruptions and surprises.
6. Use visuals to stimulate and reinforce activities - people
with Alzheimer's react positively to visual prompts. Posting signs
around the home that provide instructions such as "brush teeth" or
"wash face" can be very helpful. Also, a collage or scrap book of
pictures can help to stimulate memories and turn into an enjoyable
There are a variety of activities that people with Alzheimer's
disease can enjoy. Much of it depends on the individual's interests
and level of functioning, and on the approach that is taken to
encourage her to participate. Remember, process is more important
than the outcome when encouraging people with Alzheimer's to
participate in activities. A kind, gentle, and supportive approach
is usually far more successful than placing high expectations and
providing negative feedback.
Steve Watson has provided assistance to seniors and their
families for over 8 years. He owns a home health agency in
Tallahassee, Florida called Comfort Keepers that provides home
health and companion care for seniors who want to remain in
their own homes and be as independent as possible.
his PhD from the University of Georgia in Public
Administration and Master's in Counseling from the University
of Delaware. He received his certification as a Care Manager
with specialization in geriatric issues this year.
If you are interested in learning more about how to help an
elderly parent or other loved one remain active and healthy,
check out this web site
http://www.keepseniorsactive.com where you can, among
other things, subscribe to an informative newsletter.