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 successfully.
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 activity.
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.
Steve has 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 helping an elderly parent or other loved one remain active and healthy, check out this blog at http://qualityoflifefortheelderly-steve.blogspot.com/ or this web site at http://www.keepseniorsactive.com where you can, among other things, subscribe to an informative newsletter.