Stay Independent Longer
Last week, we discussed Alzheimer’s Disease, which is the most common type of dementia. Some of the other common forms are vascular dementia, Lewy Body dementia, frontal-temporal disorders, and mixed dementia. About 1 in 7 seniors in the United States has some form of dementia. Whatever the official dementia diagnosis, the symptoms and disease progression are relatively similar.
This week, we want to provide caregivers with the best tips to support independence for seniors with dementia. The more your senior loved ones can do safely on their own, the longer they will be able to stay at home.
- Participation in Daily Routines
- People living with dementia find comfort in daily routines. Help your loved one by writing down a schedule for meal times, bathing, grooming, sleeping, etc. Post it in the kitchen or somewhere they can easily refer to it throughout the day. You can even set alarms, reminders, and timers on their smart devices to encourage them to follow through with their daily schedule.
- Physical Activity
- We all know how valuable exercise is throughout life. Seniors with dementia benefit greatly from simply stretching and walking. This not only increases strength and flexibility but is positively correlated to higher cognitive function. Encouraging healthy movement every day will therefore help your loved one stay independent longer, by keeping them strong enough to maintain their routines. Click here for more exercise ideas!
- Provide Opportunities for Social Interaction
- Connecting with others provides a sense of belonging. Thoughts truly shape our lives. People with dementia who feel like they have a sense of meaning and purpose, are much more likely to continue thriving at home. Check out local senior daycare options, or senior classes at fitness centers like the YMCA. Group fitness activities are a great way to get your loved one socializing and moving at the same time! Social activities should promote self-esteem and should not involve new learning, which can create stress. Dementia can be incredibly isolating. Incorporating social activities into daily or weekly routines can be incredibly beneficial for a senior’s positive self-image.
- Focus on their Abilities
- The “use it or lose it” principle is especially true for people with dementia. Especially in the early stages, it is important to encourage your loved ones to do what they can on their own. Try to take a step back if your loved one is making an attempt, rather than dive in and do it for them. It is a natural caregiver tendency to want to help as much as possible in order to take the burden off your loved one. However, in the case of dementia, seniors will only be able to accomplish tasks they routinely practice. Natural disease progression will eventually make normal activities of daily living challenging. Focus on redirecting to something they CAN do. For example, if cooking has become difficult, ask them to set the table. If buttons and belts are too intricate, opt for clothing with elastic instead. Always remember that every day with dementia is different, if something was a struggle yesterday, encourage them to try again tomorrow.
- Create a Safe and Comfortable Home Environment
- It is important for those with dementia to have a safe space. Things like bright lights, loud noise, and even excessive clutter can trigger behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD). These triggers lead to confusion, agitation, and even wandering. Therefore it is vital to minimize things that trigger BPSD. Labels are great to help seniors identify commonly used household items. Similarly, signs and posted schedules give them references and reminders that they are in the right place. Clocks and calendars are also incredibly helpful. Visual reminders are a great way to get seniors with dementia back on track when they are fuzzy. Leaving sticky notes with handwritten messages is also a nice personal touch to remind your loved ones they are safe at home, and not alone.