Nearly everyone has been touched by Alzheimer’s disease.
Whether it’s a parent, a spouse, another family member or a friend, most of us have been affected. That’s especially true here in Palm Beach County, which is home to more people with Alzheimer’s disease than anywhere else in the United States.
Here are some tips to making it easier for loved ones suffering with dementia. After nearly 30 years of working with families, I’ve learned that Calmness and Consistency are two key concepts.
Calmness is important in personal interactions. If you are communicating with a person who has Alzheimer’s, calmness is conveyed primarily through tone of voice and body language. Use a friendly, gentle tone that does not excite or create anxiety. Raising your voice or speaking in a high pitch can create anxiety. Be patient in awaiting the person’s response and do not rush them. It takes a person with dementia longer to process information.
Communicate calmness through body language. Relax your own body. Try to position yourself so that your eyes are more or less at the same height as the other person’s eyes. For example, if the person is sitting, do not remain standing and tower over them: kneel down to be at their level. Sense the dis¬tance from the person that seems most comfortable to him or her, and adjust your position accordingly.
The consistency and predictability of a routine is calming and reassuring to a person suffering from dementia. Try to establish a predictable daily routine based on meal times, medication times, bathing times and other activities. Departures from a routine mean that new information needs to be processed and this can be a challenge that creates anxiety and suspicion.
Because consistency and familiarity are so important to a person with Alzheimer’s disease, do not expose the person to many new or unfamiliar people. For example, if a loved one is receiving home care, make sure that the provider schedules the same familiar caregiver. There is nothing more upsetting to a person with dementia than a parade of strangers appearing in their home. The same is true in an assisted living community or nursing home – insist on continuity of the staff directly caring for mom or dad.
Calmness and Consistency won’t solve all the problems of a family affected by Alzheimer’s disease; but they can go a long way toward avoiding unnecessary upset.
Visiting Angels is located in Palm Beach Gardens and is dedicated to helping seniors continue to live in their own homes by providing personalized home care and support services. For information, call (561) 328-7611, or visit http://www.visiting angels.com/palmbeaches