A Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimer’s

By National Institute on Aging

Communication and Alzheimer’s

Trying to communicate with a person who has AD can be a challenge. Both understanding and being understood may be difficult.

  • Choose simple words and short sentences and use a gentle, calm tone of voice.
  • Avoid talking to the person with AD like a baby or talking about the person as if he or she weren’t there.
  • Minimize distractions and noise–such as the television or radio–to help the person focus on what you are saying.
  • Call the person by name, making sure you have his or her attention before speaking. 
  • Allow enough time for a response. Be careful not to interrupt.
  • If the person with AD is struggling to find a word or communicate a thought, gently try to provide the word he or she is looking for. 
  • Try to frame questions and instructions in a positive way.

Bathing and Alzheimer’s

While some people with AD don’t mind bathing, for others it is a frightening, confusing experience. Advance planning can help make bath time better for both of you. 

  • Plan the bath or shower for the time of day when the person is most calm and agreeable. Be consistent. Try to develop a routine.
  • Respect the fact that bathing is scary and uncomfortable for some people with AD. Be gentle and respectful. Be patient and calm.
  • Tell the person what you are going to do, step by step, and allow him or her to do as much as possible.
  • Prepare in advance. Make sure you have everything you need ready and in the bathroom before beginning. Draw the bath ahead of time.
  • Be sensitive to the temperature. Warm up the room beforehand if necessary and keep extra towels and a robe nearby. Test the water temperature before beginning the bath or shower.
  • Minimize safety risks by using a handheld showerhead, shower bench, grab bars, and nonskid bath mats. Never leave the person alone in the bath or shower.
  • Try a sponge bath. Bathing may not be necessary every day. A sponge bath can be effective between showers or baths.

Dressing and Alzheimer’s

For someone who has AD, getting dressed presents a series of challenges: choosing what to wear, getting some clothes off and other clothes on, and struggling with buttons and zippers. Minimizing the challenges may make a difference. 

  • Try to have the person get dressed at the same time each day so he or she will come to expect it as part of the daily routine. 
  • Encourage the person to dress himself or herself to whatever degree possible. Plan to allow extra time so there is no pressure or rush.
  • Allow the person to choose from a limited selection of outfits. If he or she has a favorite outfit, consider buying several identical sets.
  • Arrange the clothes in the order they are to be put on to help the person move through the process.
  • Provide clear, step-by-step instructions if the person needs prompting.
  • Choose clothing that is comfortable, easy to get on and off, and easy to care for. Elastic waists and Velcro enclosures minimize struggles with buttons and zippers.

 

APA Reference
on Aging, N. (2006). A Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimer’s. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/a-caregivers-guide-to-alzheimers/000197
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.