September is World Alzheimer's Awareness Month
Tips for helping people who have Alzheimer's disease
1. People with Alzheimer's disease often have a reduced sense of smell. Keep in mind that they might not be able to smell something burning and should be monitored when cooking and/or smoking
2. Post pictures or signs as clues to help your Alzheimer's patient find their way around
3. Be patient and flexible: Provide assistance with personal care as needed, but allow your patient as much independence as possible. Keep in mind that Alzheimer's patients may forget to brush their teeth on Wednesday, but remember on Friday
4. Prevent complications of immobility: People in the later stages of Alzheimer's disease suffer from lack of mobility and may be bedridden or chair-bound. Skin breakdown, pressure sores, and contractions may result from lack of mobility. Remember to turn these clients every two hours - or according to your medical team's orders
5. Limit choices. It's best to limit clothing choices for people with Alzheimer's. Asking "What would you like to wear today?" will probably just cause confusion. Offer two choices and allow the person to choose between them to reduce the possibility of confusion.
6. If Alzheimer's patients clamp their mouths shut during eating, try stroking their cheeks or pretend to yawn. This may get them to open their mouths.
7. People with Alzheimer's disease usually like to eat with their fingers. (Using silverware can be too confusing.) Make sure food is cut into bite-sized pieces and not too hot to be picked up.
8. Some Alzheimer's patients have trouble seeing their food. For example, if your client has mashed potatoes on a white plate, they may not be able to see them. It may help to put the food on a dark or brightly colored plate
9. The repetitive behavior common to people with Alzheimer's disease can come from their brain being "stuck" on a certain task or idea. It can also come from an emotional upset. For example, if your Alzheimer's patient gets confused or overwhelmed, they may begin to pace or rock or repeat a hand motion over and over. Try to find out if (and why) your client is upset, or try to turn the repetitive motion into something useful, like sweeping, dusting, or folding towels
10. Be sure to call your patient by name, and be respectful, saying things like "thank you," "please," "yes, ma'am," or "no, sir," goes a long way in helping keep frustration down. You can never go wrong with general courteousness.