How to Help Alzheimer’s Patients Remember

Caregiver and patient enjoying a day at the beach
Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects the brain and a person’s memory, and is the most common form of dementia. The disease is named after Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist and neuropathologist, who first discovered the disease in 1906. Alzheimer is credited for discovering the disease known today as Alzheimer’s, which is one type of dementia. Dementia is a general term that includes memory loss, a loss of communication abilities, and a loss of problem solving abilities that interfere with daily life. Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is a stressful job and can be difficult for everyone involved. Whether the person with Alzheimer’s is your patient or a family member, it can take a toll on the people whose job it is to care for them.

How to Talk to Someone with Alzheimer’s

There are some strategies for helping adults with Alzheimer’s communicate and understand communication. As the disease progresses, the individual may gradually lose their ability to communicate. It is important to talk to them in a manner and tone that is more easily understood. Some tips for doing this are:

  • Don’t neglect to include a person with Alzheimer’s in the conversation. Be inclusive with your patient or loved one and don’t ignore them.
  • Be direct and straightforward when you speak to your patient or loved one. Face the person, adjust yourself to be at their eye level, and make sure they are looking at you before you continue with what you are going to say.
  • Allow a person with Alzheimer’s proper time to think and then respond to communication. Don’t rush or speak for them because this could discourage them from participating in the conversation.
  • Be a good listener. The individual may not verbally communicate everything they are trying to say as effectively as they used to. Being able to pick up on non-verbal cues and being privy to this kind of communication helps you be a better caregiver.
  • Eliminate distractions so more attention can be devoted toward communication. Turn off the television and put the phones away. You may be able to tune these distractions out but they may not be able to.
  • Eye contact is important and can help you communicate that you are actively listening.
  • Always remain respectful through all phases of the disease. Work with what the individual with Alzheimer’s is communicating, even if they cannot communicate verbally.

Encourage Independence

A key concept to help people with Alzheimer’s remember is to show them how to do something instead of telling them how to do it or doing it for them. Adults with Alzheimer’s may not remember all the details, but as a caregiver, you can show them and try to encourage them to remember facts about themselves or the world around them. Provide visual cues at a pace they can follow.

Establish Routines and Stick to Them

People who have Alzheimer’s disease are better at remembering if they are given a consistent schedule to follow from day to day. The scheduling of a daily routine helps exercise the brain and can create stronger mental connections. Plan for extra time in between scheduled activities so you won’t miss any of them and so you both have time to improvise and be spontaneous.

Tips for Alzheimer’s Patients

Alzheimer’s can cause a person to become withdrawn and less active in their normal activities. Being a caregiver in this circumstance involves constant attempts at keeping the person engaged and active. Here are some wise tips for aiding and caring for someone who is suffering from Alzheimer’s:

  • Try to trigger positive memories. Use pictures or meaningful objects from the past.
  • Remain positive even when the person with Alzheimer’s isn’t.
  • Encourage an increase in engagement through their hobbies and favorite activities.
  • Don’t rush a person who has Alzheimer’s disease. Go about your time together at their pace so they are encouraged to actively participate. Growing impatient is normal, but as a caregiver, you must remember to consider what the person is going through.
  • Give the patient a chance to choose instead of choosing for them. This encourages them to reason and allows them to have independence with their choices.
  • Be clear and concise when giving instructions. Simple instructions help the person to achieve a task and are less likely to confuse them. This is important for building confidence and self-esteem.
  • Don’t force it. If the individual doesn’t want to do something, let them be the boss. As a caregiver, you have a goal for the person with Alzheimer’s, but sometimes the approach needs to be more encouraging. Don’t be pushy.

Stimulating Activities for People with Alzheimer’s

Here are some daily activities that can help a person with Alzheimer’s retain their cognitive abilities:

  • Reading every day can help, even if you are reading to the person with Alzheimer’s. Reading a newspaper every day is a great way to keep up with current events and you can also make a routine of looking at the same sections every day. Keeping up with the local sports team is a good way to see what is retained over time.
  • Play a game and keep score. Games or puzzles can challenge your brain and can help memory and other cognitive functions. Try to find a game you both enjoy, or play a game they used to play. Learning a new game may be complex; give it a try but if frustration occurs fall back on something a bit easier.
  • Listen to their favorite band or music. If they used to play an instrument, perhaps try to have them play it. Triggering memories from a favorite artist or song can help strengthen their memory. Music has been shown to have tremendous benefits in adults with Alzheimer’s (Music and Memory).
  • Look through photo albums of friends and family. Ask simple, open-ended questions and don’t be upset if the person cannot remember the picture or people.

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