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Good Afternoon. Welcome to Demystifying Alzheimer’s. I’m your hostess Mary Yamin-Garone.
Today’s topic is “Social Skills, Judgment and Reasoning and the Senses in the Early Stages of Alzheimer’s.”
As your task of being a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s, you have to determine if the individual had a familiar custom or certain way of doing things. You need to ask yourself if you can honor that custom or if it needs to be adjusted.
Social Skills
In the early stages of the disease, an individual can still be outgoing and involved in group activities. They also can enjoy interacting one-on-one or with a few people. If the individual possessed good social skills prior to the disease—and this was a strong part of their personality—it still can be. Consider the following tips.
Respect and accommodate their need for socialization.
· Arrange for a senior companion or friend to visit weekly to take your loved one to the movies, shopping, even the zoo.
· Keep including them in any social events that were part of their lives before. Because of the effort required, this may be difficult but worth it. Interacting with others enriches the spirit, can be a relief and provide unexpected moments of pleasure.
· Understand that the individual with Alzheimer’s comes to depend on their primary caregiver. As a result, they can become agitated when they’re not around.
· Set up some parameters for privacy, alone or quiet time, such as when you’re on your computer, reading the paper or preparing a meal. If gently but firmly enforced, your loved one will respect your private time.
· Keeping up with personal hygiene and dressing appropriately will gradually become less important to someone with AD. Sometimes, however, it can still be important, even when they need more help. Being well-groomed and well-dressed adds to a person’s dignity, self-respect and well-being. It gives the caregiver a sense of well-being, too.
· Hold on to your sense of humor and share your laughter.
Judgment and Reasoning
When someone is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the caregiver watches them closely to be sure they’re independent choices are safe ones.
Keep them sharp.
· Remember that early in the disease, the individual still can participate in setting up legal and financial documents to take care of their future needs.
· Monitor yourself to be sure as a caregiver you’re not in denial and putting up roadblocks. Help your loved one complete the required documents when they’re ready.
· Be open to questions or discussions about why things are changing. As your loved one moves out of the denial phase they may ask, “Why is this happening to me?”
· Help the individual reflect on what’s easy or difficult for them to do.
· Help them label emotions by making comments such as, “You look sad.” “Are you frustrated?” “You seem angry. It’s okay to feel that way.”
· Try to understand why certain difficult behaviors are happening. What factors may be triggering the behavior? Are they factors you can change? It’s important to try to identify elements in the environment, the health situation or in communicating that are contributing to the overall problem.
· Keep a daily record describing problems or challenges. Write down the time and what happened in as much detail as possible. Try and remember what was happening right before their behavior changed. Who was involved? Who was affected? What emotion did the individual express? Anger? Fear? Frustration?
· Schedule routine vision and hearing checkups to maintain their abilities as long as possible or compensate for any declines. Impaired vision or hearing are two things that can affect an individual’s ability to understand.
Ambulation
The individual in this stage of the disease has full use of movement. Let them enjoy their independence as long as they can.
Keep them active.
· Understand that problems with moving about show up slowly and can come and go, depending on the circumstances. For example, while waiting in line, taking several steps forward and then stopping can confuse the individual. You may have to gently prod them to move forward. Stay away from shiny surfaces. They can look icy or slick to someone with Alzheimer’s.
· Leaving a crowded place also can be challenging. Your loved one could become frightened by all the movement and want to hold back.
· Getting out of cars can take longer and walking into a building or store can become slower. Telling someone with Alzheimer’s to “hurry up” doesn’t do any good. Remember, they’ve fallen behind you so you need to slow down.
· If your loved one is hesitant to go out for a walk, come up with alternate forms of exercise, like tossing a ball or dancing. You might want to take them to a mall where they feel safer. Bring along some friends. One can walk with the individual and the other can sit with you where your loved one can still see you.
· Be on the lookout for a loss of control when going up or down stairs. Stumbling can be dangerous.
· Register yourself and your loved one in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return Program.
Senses
The senses of touch, sight and hearing generally remain intact the longest. Typically, as people age, their ability to hear, see, feel, taste and smell changes. Usually, one or more of these senses are diminished with dementing illnesses.
Keep the senses alive.
· Continue to kiss, hug and touch your loved one if this attention was welcome prior to the onset of Alzheimer’s.
· Stimulate their senses through things like art, music, nature, gardening and cooking.
· Gently touch their arm or hand to get their attention. Say their name several times while doing so. Be careful not to startle them.
· Speak directly to them. Don’t talk to everyone else in the room but your loved one. It shows a lack of respect for their dignity.
· Enhance visual enjoyment by attending to lighting and using colors and visual contrasts between the floors and walls. Inadequate lighting can affect a person’s ability to concentrate.
· Be sure all room are adequately lit. Replace low wattage bulbs with brighter ones. This is especially helpful during the winter when the sun isn’t as bright.
· Don’t forget the outside lighting. Light sensors that go on when someone approaches are useful.
· Be attentive to patterned floor tiles that can look like steps and cause the individual to trip and fall. Glare or a highly polished floor can have the same effect.
· Play music that will stimulate, excite or calm your loved one.
· Decorate the dinner table several times a week. Prepare a meal you know your loved one will enjoy. Appealing to their senses enhances the quality of life for both of you.
· Look into the Alzheimer’s Association’s Memories in the Making Program. It encourages those with Alzheimer’s to paint or draw, even if they didn’t do so before.
That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I hope this information was helpful.
I’ll be back at 1 pm Saturday to discuss the changes that occur in the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s.

About Lillian Cauldwell

Own and operate an Internet Talk Radio Network for 10 years, 2005 to Present Published Author of Non-Fiction Book, 1996, "Teenagers! A Bewildered Parent's Guide. Published Author of several fiction books, 2006 "Sacred Honor" and 20010 "The Anna Mae Mysteries: The Golden Treasure." Playwright of Theater of the Absurd and Black Comedies. Screenwriter, Black Comedies

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