Passionate World Radio Network
Good Afternoon. Welcome to Demystifying Alzheimer’s. I’m your hostess Mary Yamin-Garone.
Today’s topic is “Memory, Language and Complex Tasks in the Early Stages of Alzheimer’s.”
Most caregivers of someone with Alzheimer’s know the first thing that’s impacted is the individual’s short-term memory. It’s important for you to know that the person suffering from this disease also knows they’re losing their memory. So if possible, identify those things that are really important early on. Being able to distinguish—and accept—what your loved one wants and needs to feel whole will help to keep dignity in your relationship. They still will be able to engage in routine activities and doing so helps them feel productive.
Set up memory clues
· Make lists, use pictures, outline simple steps and keep their routines consistent.
· Loss of short-term memory means the individual needs prompting and cues so they know what to do.
· Keep duplicate car and house keys. Find an obvious place to hang them so they’ll be easy to find if the individual forgets where the keys were put. At the same time, you might want to reevaluate whether they should still be driving.
· Mark where kitchen and bathroom items are stored. Put labels on drawers, cupboards and dressers. Use calendars, pill boxes and other memory aides.
· Pose questions and instructions positively. Keep in mind that the individual is most likely aware of their loss of skills and can become frustrated with their increasing need to depend on others.
Language starts to deteriorate in this stage, making conversations more difficult. Finding the right words to fully express what they’re feeling can be challenging. As a caregiver, you must continue to act as a resource and help the individual express themselves. If your loved one is amused when they can’t find the right word or name and can laugh with you when it’s finally found, enjoy the humor in the situation. If appropriate, offer a missing name or word so they don’t become frustrated.
Coach and cue them.
· Set the mood for interactions with them. Use a calm, gentle, sensible approach. Your relaxed manner can be infectious.
· Look directly at them. Make sure you have their attention before speaking. If you can’t get their attention, wait a few minutes, then try again.
· Be positive. Restrict the number of “don’ts” and avoid giving them harsh or direct orders.
· Try not to finish their sentences. It could be embarrassing. Allow them some time to find the right words. If they can’t find the words, gently suggest what they might want to say. Often they’ll look to you for help. Try to assist them before they get frustrated and give up.
· Speak slowly. If necessary, repeat what you said using different words or shorter sentences. Look for feedback in their body language and facial expressions.
· Avoid using a condescending tone of voice when speaking slowly or using shorter sentences. It can make them angry. Don’t forget that communicating properly shows respect and helps to maintain the individual’s dignity.
· Ask questions that call for a “yes” or “no” answer. Instead of saying, “What would you like to wear today?” you could ask, “Do you want to wear the blue or yellow dress?” or “This shirt looks so good on you. How about wearing it today?” An interest in their choice of clothing may remain even when they can’t choose for themselves.
· Don’t treat the individual with Alzheimer’s as non-existent when you’re talking with a group. Don’t answer for them. Let them respond. This is particularly important at medical appointments.
Express your feelings.
· Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with your loved one. It lets them know you still need them and value their thoughts and opinions.
· Express your feelings to release tension and help comfort them. This is especially important after you’ve been angry or frustrated or you’ve “lost” it with them.
· Be positive, optimistic and reassuring. Say things like, “Everything will be alright,” “Don’t worry,” “You’re doing great” or “I’ll help you.”
· Don’t discourage them from discussing difficult or emotional subjects, such as dying. Don’t dismiss their feelings or fears by saying something like, “That’s not going to happen.”
In the early stages, the person still can drive, read, do crossword puzzles and play games. They can cook, garden and entertain. They also can make decisions, reason and exhibit good judgment.
An Alzheimer’s sufferer depends on a certain amount of structure in their daily routine. Consistency is important in helping to minimize stress. Multi-step tasks that might have been readily carried out in the past, now need to be broken into several separate tasks. Any tasks performed frequently and repeatedly before Alzheimer’s are often retained the longest.
Consider the following tips.
· Know how long the individual can attend to a task. Be on the lookout for signs that they’re becoming frustrated. Divert their attention before the stress becomes overwhelming.
· Don’t rush to help them if they’re struggling with dressing, putting clothes away, setting the table or other simple activities. Most of the time they’ll complete the task if given enough time. Only intervene when they ask for help.
· Avoid taking responsibilities away from the person by saying, “You can’t do that” or “Give that to me.” Instead of assuming they can’t do certain things, emphasize what they can do.
· Coordinate their clothes into sets. This eliminates confusion about what to wear, allows them to choose independently and lets them remain somewhat independent.
· When the individual wants to help, let them.
· Work together with them, especially on tasks they may have trouble completing alone.
· Establish a schedule for things like eating, playing games and socializing.
· Post a daily schedule of activities in a prominent place as a reminder of what’s going to happen or what needs to be accomplished.
· Set up a monthly calendar for them to keep track of appointments, trips and special occasions. Circle events in bold, bright colors and mark each passing day with an X to help them understand the concept of time.
· Use medication holders or get into the habit of dispensing their medications at the same time every day.
· Stay flexible when it comes to accommodating their changing moods.
That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I hope this information was helpful.
Join me at 1 pm Monday when I’ll discuss social skills, judgment and reasoning, ambulation and senses in the early stages.