10 Helpful Tips for Those Helping a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s isn’t a solitary journey; it’s an experience that influences an entire circle of family and friends. While you can’t control the course of the disease, you can make the journey a bit more navigable, both for your loved one and yourself.

1. Establish a Routine
Consistency is key for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. A well-structured routine minimizes confusion and provides a comforting, predictable environment. Try to maintain regular meal, bath, and bedtime schedules. It’s not just about timing—familiar settings and activities can also be part of this crucial routine.

2. Utilize Memory Aids
While it’s disheartening to see a loved one forget essential details, memory aids can serve as useful reminders. Labeling doors, drawers, and household items with simple, readable tags can help. Personalized photo albums can also be beneficial, serving as a tactile bridge to cherished memories.

3. Develop Effective Communication Skills
Communication can become challenging as Alzheimer’s progresses. To help, use simple words and sentences, maintaining a gentle tone of voice.

Nonverbal cues—like maintaining eye contact or using reassuring touch—can also go a long way in facilitating a smoother exchange.

When communication becomes challenging, shift your approach to value “micro-interactions.” A warm smile, a brief touch, or a shared laugh can convey more than a lengthy conversation and may provide comfort and connection without the frustration of misunderstood words.

4. Prioritize Safety
Alzheimer’s can make even a familiar environment hazardous. Remove tripping hazards like loose rugs or clutter. Install locks on cabinets that contain dangerous items. Keep in mind that as the disease progresses, you may need to reassess and make further modifications to ensure safety.

5. Encourage Physical Activity
Physical exercise has proven benefits for cognitive health. Even a simple walk in the park can help. However, consult a healthcare provider for personalized recommendations based on your loved one’s current health status.

6. Two-Way Journaling
Keep a journal where both you and your loved one contribute. It becomes a shared space for communication that can bypass the immediacy and potential frustration of verbal interactions. They can write or draw, providing a new avenue for expression and understanding.

7. Create a Sensory Haven
Create an environment that pleases all five senses. Introduce soft blankets for touch, soothing music for hearing, and pleasant scents like lavender for smell. Tuning into these
often-overlooked sensory experiences can bring a lot of comfort to your loved one.

Sometimes an old perfume, a particular texture, or a specific tune can serve as a powerful anchor to the present moment. Identify what sensory elements resonate most with your loved one and use them strategically to offer comfort or clarity during confusing times.

8. Embrace Spontaneity Within Boundaries
While routines provide comfort, a bit of spontaneity can stimulate the brain and elevate the mood. This can be as simple as an unplanned detour on your walk to enjoy some flowers or trying out a new recipe for dinner. The key is to balance spontaneity with safety and your loved one’s current ability level.

9. Practice “Radical Acceptance”
Instead of continually fighting the limitations imposed by Alzheimer’s, sometimes it’s necessary to practice radical acceptance. Understand that there will be good days and bad days, and sometimes the most compassionate action is simply to sit in the moment with them, accepting it for what it is.

10. Seek Support
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be draining emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Don’t underestimate the importance of self-care. Support groups, respite care, and professional help are available to support caregivers. You don’t have to go through it alone.

The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming for both the individual and their caregivers. Armed with the right strategies, however, you can provide quality care that makes a genuine difference.