"Wait a minute, it'll come to me." This is a recurring phrase we utter when we have to wait for a thought to be dislodged from the recesses of our brain. For some, those memories do not surface at all and remain hidden. Diseases like Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia cloud memories in various ways. The victims of these diseases may not remember the person who cares for them, but they may remember childhood parties and family gatherings from decades ago. Confusion and disorientation caused by dementia often result in fear, anxiety, and restlessness, which should be handled with understanding and patience.
The tasks of daily life can be accomplished without confusing or upsetting the person with dementia. Simple, structured routines with fewer choices help to avoid feelings of anxiety and frustration. Caregivers should use a calm voice and a reassuring, gentle touch to convey warmth and protection.
You can help the person suffering from an illness like this by making the most of their remaining abilities and memories.
Verbal and visual clues help keep people oriented to where they are and what time it is:
- Use a dry erase board to write down the day and date. Below it, you can list the day's activities in the order of their occurrence, including medications, grooming schedule, mealtimes, etc. Cross out each activity as it completed.
Have large wall clocks with a day and date display wherever the person spends a significant amount of time.
Hang signs to help with directions to the bathroom, kitchen, etc.
Announce which meal will be served next and at what time.
Tell them where they are going, where they are and where they have been. Don't insist that they know, because they truly may not. Forgetting where they are may be more frustrating for them than it is for you.
The memory lapses suffered by a dementia patient create a day filled with boredom, challenges and failures. Caregivers should try to find activities that appeal to the patient, provide mental stimulation and a sense of accomplishment.
Here are some examples:
Stirring up old
memories. Reminiscing and talking about past experiences is an important means of helping a person with dementia stay connected to his memories and maintain his social skills.
- Scrapbooking is a popular art form that can help organize memories and provide a form of expression at the same time. Not just for photographs, Scrapbooking can include the collection of newspaper and magazine clippings as well as other memorabilia. Incorporate scrapbook making into a family project and discuss the stories around each of the items as they are placed into the book. Provide materials to capture the stories and help them decorate and illustrate their thoughts with embellishments. Stickers, stamps, rubbings and other decorations add to the entertainment value of the activity as well as providing an opportunity for group participation. The best part? The results you capture today will provide hours of pleasure as the stories and images can be rediscovered again in the future.
Listen and sing along to music that is still familiar. There are CD's available from early radio programs as well as compilations of popular music from almost any era. Big button CD players or players with remotes are harder to find, but easier for arthritic fingers to handle.
If the person is capable, have them recall stories of special holidays, weddings, vacations and other meaningful family events. Help them to write a journal of these memories for them to look at later on and to share with future generations. You can interview them, just like a talk show host, drawing out the details of the event as they recall them.
Spend time together just chatting about what you are doing at the moment.
- Go for a walk and discuss what you can see and hear around you; such as the birds, the trees, etc.
Share meals and treats and talk about the flavors and preferences.
Simple crafts that include sorting, pasting or big piece weaving are good activities to do together. You can chat about the colors and textures or the reasons why one object sorts into a group when another does not.
Play simple games. Choose games that are considered classic, rather than childish.
- Play dominoes or checkers with big pieces that are easy to see and hold.
You utilize your hands, eyes, logic and memory when working with table puzzles. Choose puzzles with big pieces that are easier to handle.
Provide sturdy toys that are interesting to manipulate like a Jacobs Ladder or other old fashioned wood
toys. These can provide soothing repetitive motions and noises.
There's no reason to isolate a person with dementia from new experiences, unless they find new surroundings or people upsetting. They may not recall the event afterwards, but they can still thoroughly enjoy themselves as it happens. Activities help to pass the time and keep the mind stimulated, preventing boredom and frustration. Be sure to give your loved one choices too, so they can feel competent and have some control over what happens to them.
Exploring memories old and new makes life more enjoyable for everyone. Some people just need more structured activities and reminders to help them through the day. So plan your day to include varying experiences, making sure not to overdo it, and enjoy!
© Copyright 2006
Dynamic Living, Inc.
Dynamic Living Newsletter may only be redistributed in its unedited form. Written permission from the editor must be obtained to reprint or cite the information contained within this newsletter.
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