7 out of 10 people who have dementia live alone.
Think about the consequence of that statement. Dementia can describe a number of symptoms that accompany the progressive decline of a person’s functioning most commonly caused by Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Lewy Body disease. In addition to memory loss, dementia can cause problems with abstract thinking, judgment and safety risk, and one’s ability to communicate. Yet, the majority of people in our country who are living with dementia and its complications deal with life’s many daily tasks alone, making themselves dinner, taking their medications, and paying their bills.
Providing assistance with some of the most troublesome daily activities can make their day so much more enjoyable. If you have a loved one in your life who is living with dementia, here are some easy ways you can help improve their quality of life:
Avoid Financial Troubles
Difficulty paying bills, managing bank accounts, understanding contracts, and minding financial security are often among the first red flags when it comes to memory loss and cognitive decline.
- With an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, it is important to find or appoint someone who can help the person manage routine financial responsibilities such as paying bills, making investment decisions, managing bank accounts and preparing tax returns.
- Check the mail or voicemail; they can offer clues as to how money is being managed. Look for unopened or overdue bills, messages from banks or creditors, or thank you notes from charities.
- Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry. https://www.donotcall.gov/
- Contact the Direct Marketing Association to have their name removed from the mailing lists of some direct mail marketing companies and nonprofit organizations. Follow this link to do this online https://www.dmachoice.org/
Reduce Medication Errors
Older adults, especially those with cognitive impairment, are at a high risk for medication errors and have a greater propensity for experiencing harmful and fatal errors. Individuals over 65 take an average of 14 prescriptions a year and those over 80 more than 19. That’s a lot to keep track of! The most common types of medication errors in older adults are omission and improper dose. For people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia it can become very difficult to remember to take medications, adhere to proper dosages, and keep track of expired, discontinued or duplicate prescription bottles.
- Prepare and monitor medication cassettes
- Regularly review medicine cabinets for expired and duplicate prescriptions
- Assist the person in researching pill or blister packs they can get filled by the pharmacy
Improve Mood & Self Esteem
Persons living with dementia usually experience a progressive decline in their ability to accomplish even basic activities of daily living (ADLs) such as dressing, grooming, hygiene, etc. They have difficulty distinguishing between items of clothing and accessories. Objects that were once familiar may appear as something unknown or as entirely different. As the disease progresses beyond the early stages, choosing and putting on clothes can be frustrating. The person may not use good judgment in dressing and may be overwhelmed by the task itself.
- Helping a person with dementia maintain his or her appearance can promote positive self-esteem
- Be sure to give ample time and to be patient in order to encourage independence and dignity, and to minimize anxiety
- Help them feel valued in their home by assisting, not taking over, them with daily tasks like cleaning, cooking, folding clothes, or making the bed
- Find ways to laugh. Reminisce on pleasant and funny stories from their past
- Get out for a walk. Even light exercise can help to improve one’s mood.
- Hang out with kids and pets
Encourage Health Through Nutrition
Proper nutrition is important to keeping the body strong and healthy. For a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, poor nutrition may increase behavioral symptoms and cause weight loss. As dementia progresses, forgetfulness, poor appetite, problems swallowing and changes in how food tastes may impact the amount and types of food eaten. Making sure a person with dementia gets enough nutrients to stay healthy is vital.
- Take them food shopping
- Bring fresh groceries
- Stock easy to prepare breakfast foods
- Prepare meals together
- Plan regular meals together
Give them a Ride
Getting out and about in the community can become very difficult for someone with dementia. In addition to very likely losing the ability to drive, going out in public can be cumbersome because of their inability to communicate well with others.
- Encourage your loved one to go out, even for short trips, to the post office or coffee shop
- Offer to accompany them to their medical appointments
- Take them to their religious services
At some point you may have to consider a more supportive living arrangement like home care or assisted living, however, not everyone has these options.
If we can help promote Dementia Friendly Communities where ordinary citizens and neighbors band together to find meaningful ways to support those living with dementia, we can help them maintain their community connections and ability to live independently. Contact your local senior center or council on aging to find out what services your community can provide for those in your area living with dementia, and if they have not already, encourage them to consider training and advocacy to become a Dementia Friendly Community.