As our population ages, more and more Baby Boomers, and even Generation Xers, are going to find themselves in the position of being a caregiver for their parents or other loved ones. Being a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be particularly challenging because of the way these diseases progress.
Your goal may be to preserve as much independence for the person, for as long as possible, while you weigh the financial considerations of a memory care community versus the time commitment of being a full-time caregiver. At Bethesda Senior Living Communities, we recognize that this is one of the most difficult decisions a family can make, and we are here every step of the way to help potential residents and their families with this transition.
While you are a caregiver, here are five tips to help ease the stress and make life better for your loved one:
1. Routines Rule
Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia do better when they have a constant daily routine to follow. Changes from the routine can create agitation and worry, so try to establish a set time for meals and activities. It’s best to schedule outings such as medical appointments for the morning when the person is fresh. Outings when the person is tired may create additional stress.
2. Create a Calming Environment
All of us find a clean, de-cluttered home soothing, and it’s even more important for seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia. In addition to cleaning the environment, try to reduce noise and distractions, particularly during tasks such as dressing or meals. Turn off the TV and radio so your loved one’s attention stays focused.
3. Provide Choices
Autonomy is important as we age. While unlimited choices may be overwhelming, give your loved one a couple of options for what to wear each day or what should be on the menu. Involve the person by asking, “Would you like to go for a walk?” “Could you set the table?” Allow them to do as much as they are able.
4. Consider Music Therapy
It’s well established that music, particularly classical music, has a therapeutic effect on seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Recent research shows that harp music in particularly helps with “sun downing,” so put a nice piece of music on late in the day to create a soothing experience during the transition into the evening.
5. The Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach
At Bethesda Senior Living Communities we have a growing number of caregivers trained in Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach, which is a method of caregiving that focuses on positive outcomes. For example, allowing the person to brush their own teeth but perhaps holding their hand while doing so gives the person the feeling of autonomy. We recommend caregivers research this methodology.