Friday, March 11, 2016

Tips for caring for someone with memory issues

Often, these days, I see all age-related memory deficits referred to as Alzheimer's--which is not strictly true. There are several other forms. I know because my mother had senile dementia, but not an Alzheimer's  diagnosis. My sister and I cared for her for 18 years until she died at 95.

This subject has come up because of Nancy Reagan's death--she cared for her husband with Alzheimer's for many years. At times, I heard, he did not recognize her despite their publicized love affair. So painful.

In 2013, 5.3 million Amercans had Alzheimer's.

If you are caring for someone with this awful disease, which can erase personality, Mayo Clinic neurologist Ronald Petersen, Md, PhD, has some tips.

--Schedule wisely. Make each day predictable and plan difficult tasks--such as doctor visits--for when your loved one is calmest.

--Adapt. If the person wants to wear the same outfit every day, don't argue--buy identical outfits.

--Take your time. Everything takes longer than you think.

--Try to involve the person. Ask their advice or wishes.

--But limit choices. Give them a pick of two outfits--don't show them the whole closet.

--Reduce distractions. Turn off the TV during meals.

--Prevent falls. Pick up all small rugs, watch the wires and extension cords. Put handrails in critical areas.

--Use locks. Lock cabinets that contain dangerous things.

--Lower the thermostat on the water heater,

--Be careful of fire. Keep lighter out of reach. Smoking must be done under supervision.

--And I am adding one: You may need to consider a higher level of care, even if you promised never to put your loved one in a "place."

If you want to help the caregiver, be specific. Don't say, "Let me know how I can help."


--"I am going to the store--what can I pick up for you?"

--I am free for a few hours tomorrow--may I sit while you take time for yourself?"

--I made two meatloaves and am bringing one over."

--Does your yard need mowing? I can do it Saturday."

Cards and emails are good--but personal visits can make a caregiver's day.

I notice the New York Times has many stories on caregiving--it's something we will almost all face.

And it's no picnic.

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