A simple phone call or Sunday afternoon visit may not be so simple if your family member or loved one has Alzheimer’s. The normal rules don’t always apply when you’re faced with everything from memory loss to agitation, depression and confusion. But you still want to spend quality time with those who count most. We’ve uncovered five tips to help you connect even in the face of Alzheimer’s.
Focus on Your Own Emotions
You don’t have any control over the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia on your loved one. But you do have the ability to regulate your own emotions. Before you head out for a visit, take a few minutes to focus on cultivating a calm demeanor and positive emotions. Try meditating for five minutes or listening to calming music in the car before you head inside. People with Alzheimer’s pick up on your emotions and body language, so staying calm can help set the tone for the whole visit. Remind yourself that any “difficult” behavior from your loved one is a symptom of the disease.
Embrace Structure and Schedules
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “structured and pleasant activities can often reduce agitation and improve mood.” If you provide Alzheimer’s caregiver support by taking care of your aunt or mom every Saturday, you might make these visits more enjoyable by creating a schedule. List out meals, personal care tasks and simple activities—watching birds in the backyard or visiting a neighborhood bakery for a treat. Try listing everything out and assigning a timeframe to each activity. Try the Time Timer® MOD + Dry Erase Board to make your schedule then track each activity with the visual timer. It will help you both keep track of what’s next.
Create a Calm Environment
We’re all influenced by our environment, but it can have an especially big impact on someone with Alzheimer’s. Distractions make it hard to focus on your time together, and they may even increase confusion or irritability. Depending on the stage of the disease, you may want to avoid crowded stores or even big, loud family events. Instead focus on one-on-one time or small group visits. Then be sure to switch off the TV, close the windows if it’s loud outside and eliminate any other distractions you can. This gives you both the chance to focus on each other—even if that’s just sitting together and enjoying the quiet.
Tap into Life-Long Interests
Look for ways to help your loved one connect with the things he or she always loved. If your mom was the best baker on the block, ask her to help you frost some cupcakes or watch a cooking show together. Listening to the person’s favorite music may be another great way to have fun—even singing along and clapping. Nature lovers might enjoy a walk through the park or just sitting on a quiet bench under some trees. Try to fit the activity to the person’s current abilities and keep activities to relatively short time periods.