As the primary caregiver to an elderly relative with a memory loss disorder such as Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia, you know first-hand just how challenging or even frustrating the responsibility can be at times. But in this role it's important to sometimes step back, take a deep breath and try some new methods to deal with these challenges. Here are five tips on ways you can improve your caregiving efforts to those with memory loss disorders:
- Notes really do work. Whether it’s a post-it by the door reminding them to take their keys with them when leaving the house or a reminder that they planned to do something later that day, leaving a written reminder can go far in cutting back on frustration for all parties.
- Think of their minds as having switched tracks. There’s been a breakdown in logical thinking, so they’re not going to arrive at the same conclusions you are. Don’t attempt to argue using logic. Instead, let them know what is going to happen.
- Redirect them when they become confused. If they’re insisting that you take them home right now, it doesn’t help to argue that they’re already home. Instead, try to get them to describe to you what they think their home looks like. You can do the same when they insist on talking with someone who has already passed away.
- You’ll have to be the boss. This can be difficult if it’s your parents, but remember they need someone to tell them what to do for their own good—just like they did for you when you were a child. For example, don’t ask them what they want for dinner—tell them that "this is what we’re eating".
- Encourage independence. Some days will be better than others for your loved one with memory loss issues. They’ll likely lose their ability to do things if you perform a task for them all the time. If they can do it, let them. Some days they’ll be able to do something they couldn’t the day before. Just roll with it.
It’s never easy to watch a parent go through the progressive stages of memory loss. If your parent still lives in their home, Johns Hopkins Home Support has staff trained in caring for patients with dementia and can meet with you to discuss options for care.
For more information on memory loss and Alzheimer’s, visit the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center and the Johns Hopkins Medicine Healthy Aging section’s “What You Need to Know as You Age”.