As I have mentioned, and will keep on stressing, I am not a medical professional and will not attempt to give you any medical advice. What I am sharing now has come straight from the caregivers, what worked for them and what did not. You can look on the internet in several places and find other things to add here. The things in this article come from their personal and practical experience. I believe they might also be beneficial for visitors, or for those who offer care time while the caregiver is away running necessary errands. These were shared by those who have been there and who want to help others with their hard-won wisdom and knowledge.
1. You must enter the Alzheimer's patient's world; do not expect him to understand or interact in your world any longer. A basic tenet of education is "Start where the student is at." The same is true of the Alzheimer's patient. Don't try to make him do what he can no longer do. If he wants to converse, then talk about the things he wants to talk about, but if he is no longer conversational, then you must do the talking and watch his reactions for signs of interest or lack thereof. If he closes his eyes or turns his back, try another subject.
2. Address him by name ("Hello, Bob"). He may not reply but at least he knows he is not being ignored.
3. Ask simple yes or no questions and give him choices whenever possible, but no more than two. "Do you want ______ or ______ for supper?" "Do you want to watch ________ or _________ on TV?" Always be willing and able to live with whatever he chooses.
4. Don't say, "Do you remember__________?" Instead, say, "I remember when we ______________," and allow him to say something, to nod or smile.
5. Find something to keep his hands busy. Puzzles might be a good choice, but be aware that while you may have started with 1000 piece puzzles, you will gradually need to move to 500, 300, and even 100 piece puzzles as the illness progresses. Pay attention to what is happening and his frustration level to know when to switch.
6. On the occasion when something must be done (going to the doctor, getting dressed, taking a bath, taking medication), do not say, "Do you want to __________?" Just say, "It's time to _________." This avoids the problem of him answering your question with a "No," especially if it is something that simply must be done at a certain time.
7. Patiently answer the same question as many times as it takes, even if it is asked in rapid succession many times. Use the same verbiage. Control your frustration and answer it as if it is the first time he has asked.
8. Give simple three or four word instructions, helping him accomplish a task one step at a time. Do not overburden him with too much information at once. For instance, when he is dressing himself, you might need to tell which article of clothing to put on, one after the other and how to do it. Another friend of mine had left her mother dressing herself for church and when she returned, found her with her slip on top of her dress. Do not assume that the patient knows how to do anything the correct way anymore, but stand by and watch, ready to give one piece of information at a time, but only as needed. For as long as possible, let them have their small victories.
9. Remember that you are the patient's anchor, especially when he begins following you around and seems nervous and clingy. Be there for him and reassure him that you will not leave him.
10. And above all, remember that the patient is still a human being with feelings just like you. They may not be able to verbalize and are limited in their abilities, but they will always remember who makes them feel good.
The caregivers I have spoken to and I hope these things will help you as you travel a long, hard, and often lonely road.
And we urge you, brothers…encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1Thess 5:14).