First of all, your commitment is admirable; it’s clear you love your wife very much. But be sure to take care of yourself too. Caring for a loved one with dementia is very stressful and can take a big toll on the caregiver. It’s difficult to care for another when your own health is suffering. Ask for help from others, if you can, so you can find ways to take a break. Even if it’s just to run errands or have coffee with a friend, you’ll be able to come back refreshed. CountryHouse offers daytime and overnight services to family caregivers for just this reason. In addition, getting involved with a caregiver support group will give you an opportunity to ask questions, as well as talk with others who are going through similar challenges.
One of the best things you can do is engage your wife in daily activities that focus on her strengths. The need to have feelings of self-worth and belonging don’t evaporate when a person has dementia. Participating in simple activities together can also help you stay connected longer, even beyond the loss of language abilities.
The following 12 principles for activity engagement are from Dr. Cameron Camp of the Center for Applied Research in Dementia:
- The activity should have a sense of purpose, such as placing flowers in a vase or choosing what to wear.
- Invite the person to participate: “Hi Sandra, it’s Jim. Would you like to sort laundry or wash grapes?”
- Offer no more than two choices at a time, either two activities or two options (which shirt to wear, etc.)
- Talk less and demonstrate more.
- Focus on what the person can do.
- Match your speed to the person’s abilities.
- Use visual cues — show how something is done.
- Give the person something to hold.
- Go from simple to more complex tasks.
- Break a task down into simple steps to follow.
- End by asking, “Did you enjoy this?”
- Focus on having a pleasant time, not right or wrong.
Along with patience and encouragement, this interactive approach will make her feel appreciated and accepted.
Have a question about Alzheimer’s or dementia care? Call Nicole at (308) 381-1988 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.