1. Accept their limitations Avoid pushing seniors with dementia beyond their limits by expecting them to do things they’ve been struggling with.
They aren’t refusing to do things because they’re lazy or refuse to remember.
Their brains are failing and they’re losing the knowledge and abilities they need to accomplish those once-easy tasks. Accept where they are now.
2. Reduce complex decisions Making choices about every part of their day isn’t necessary, but there are some decisions your older adult may still want to make. The goal isn’t to take away their right to choose, but to simplify to make choices easier – too many options are confusing and overwhelming.
For example, lay out all the clothes they need, but offer a choice between two shirts – the red shirt or the blue shirt? This way, they’re still participating in the process, but won’t have to find and select all the other clothing items they need.
3. Slow down We’re used to moving at a “normal” pace, but that’s because our brains are fully functional and can quickly process information and thoughts. When someone has dementia, those cognitive processes slow down significantly. That’s why your older adult needs a lot more time when thinking, speaking, or taking action. To reduce stress and allow them to feel successful, don’t rush them through daily life. Take the pressure off and let them move at their own pace – even if it seems really slow.
4. Keep the environment calm and quiet For someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, everyday tasks have become difficult and require extra thought and concentration. When you add loud noise or lots of people, it’s natural for them to feel frustrated and stressed.
5. Treat them with respect Everyone, no matter their age or abilities, wants to be treated with respect. Seniors with dementia are no different. Even if they struggle with decisions or everyday tasks, there are many ways to make things easier while still showing respect. A good way to do this is to offer simplified choices, like with the red or blue shirt mentioned above. That way, you’re not giving orders and expecting them to follow. You’re helping your older adult make decisions in a way that suits their current abilities.
6. Rely on routine Routines reduce the amount of thinking and number of decisions that need to be made on a daily basis. Routines are especially helpful for seniors with dementia because they reduce the number of things they need to remember or think about. Having a steady, constant routine is comforting and far less stressful than if each day was unpredictable. Putting objects in the same places and doing the same activities at the same time of day means they know where things are and what will be happening.
7. Speak plainly and simply Alzheimer’s and dementia affect the brain’s ability to process and retrieve information.
Short, direct sentences with only one thought per sentence are easier to understand.
The goal is to give your older adult less to think about and less to remember. If you’re giving instructions, make it one step. If you’re sharing information, keep it to one thought.
Using fewer words and a warm and positive tone makes things easier and less frustrating for them.
8. Avoid fatigue Getting overtired isn’t good for anyone’s mood, but it can put even more pressure on an already frazzled senior with dementia. Just like you’re more likely to snap when you’re exhausted, someone with dementia is more likely to have an angry outburst when they’re fatigued.
9. Help them be successful When a task is too difficult, it’s frustrating and stressful. The answer isn’t to have your older adult stop doing things for themselves. That will only make them feel worse. Instead, find ways to modify activities so they will be successful. For example, if they’re having trouble cutting meat at dinner, consider serving dishes where the meat is already in smaller pieces or getting a specialized knife that’s easier to use. Or, if your older adult struggles to zip their pants or button their shirts, consider switching to clothing with velcro fasteners instead of zippers or buttons.