But what can we do?: Strategies for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias

Caregivers are frequently at a loss for what they can do to help individuals with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Speech-language pathologists have unique knowledge to be able to support families through this transition, and can be a helpful member of the care team. However, there are plenty of things that caregivers can do at home to support their loved ones.

 Planners and schedules can be a great strategy.
Planners and schedules can be a great strategy.
  • Memory aids: There are about a million different ways to make a memory aid. Planners and calendars are easy go-to strategies, but smartphones have plenty of capabilities for memory aids. I set reminders for myself all the time! Apps like Voice Memos or even just taking pictures can be useful as well.

  • Labels: Whether with sticky notes, hand-written labels, or a label maker, labels can be helpful. Place them on cabinets, doors, and drawers to help the loved one remember where things are kept. Labels are also good to have on pill boxes.

  • Visual schedules or directions: Simple step-by-step directions or schedules with pictures for everyday activities can help your loved one complete tasks independently, even as the dementia progresses.

  • Organization: Make sure to keep spaces frequently utilized by the loved one highly organized and free of clutter. It’s very important to make items easy to find. Fewer items within sight provide less distraction.

  • Hearing concerns: Confusion from hearing loss in typically healthy adults can often be mistaken by family members for memory or cognitive issues. This is why it’s especially important to address any hearing loss an individual with Alzheimers/other dementias may have. If they can’t hear, other strategies won’t be effective!

  • Speaking of noise…: Try to eliminate background noises as much as possible (i.e. TV in the background). The less noise distractions, the better.

  • Memory books: Memory books are a great way to help the loved one with Alzheimer’s/dementia stay oriented to the people around them and to themselves. Here is a template from the Association Montessori Internationale/Montessori for Ageing and Dementia to guide you.

  • Socialization: Continue to do things you like or the person you’re caring for likes. Modifications to the activities may need to be made. Staying active can help reduce anxiety related to progression of the disease.

  • Join a support group: People who are sharing in the same journey as you can support you in a way that others may not be able to. The Alzheimer’s Association has a search function for people to find support groups near them. The greater Grand Rapids area has two groups – one completely in Spanish and one in English.

There are plenty of other strategies caregivers can utilize to help their loved one with Alzheimer’s/dementia. Ask your doctor about visiting a speech-language pathologist for more information!

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