50 Tips

50 Tips That Can Make Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care More Successful

  1. Learn about the disease and its effects on thinking, behaviour, personality and function. Have appropriate expectations.
  2. Do not argue or try to reason – the ways in which we perceive what is true and real are different. Arguing only creates distance and mistrust.
  3. Ask the family or friends what makes the resident special and unique.
  4. Do not label or stereotype residents and their behaviours; everyone responds and reacts differently and for different reasons.
  5. Have activities that reflect the resident’s ‘normal’ day as much as possible.
  6. Recognize and reassess any unusual changes in condition – don’t just write it off to the disease process.
  7. Ask the residents to help you with various chores and activities – everyone likes to be needed and to feel useful.
  8. Invite children to visit in the home to sing, for show and tell, or to read stories.
  9. Find each resident’s hidden talent or reserved strength and encourage that.
  10. Remember you, as the caregiver, set the tone and mood for the environment.
  11. Don’t fall victim to seeing all or most behaviours as problems. The residents may be doing the best that they can related to how they perceive, understand, and problem solve.
  12. Find at least one thing to say to each resident each day.
  13. Don’t make any unnecessary changes in their environment.
  14. Don’t take the disinhibited, angry, or rude remarks too personally. It is usually not personal.
  15. Find ways in which the residents can be and feel successful – don’t involve them in activities or tasks in which they have a higher likelihood of failure.
  16. Recognize your strengths as a caregiver and share them frequently.
  17. Try to see that the residents get fresh air every day.
  18. Avoid indiscriminate use of the TV or music as they both can be misinterpreted and unsettling to residents.
  19. When passing residents, share a nod, smile or handshake.
  20. Let other staff know the caregiving ‘tricks’ that work for you. Share freely your good ideas and ways to be successful.
  21. Try to understand the losses experienced by the family members. Sometimes their grief comes off as anger.
  22. Find joy in the little things and small successes.
  23. Make sure residents get enough fluids. Dehydration contributes to confusion.
  24. Don’t overload or quiz residents in conversation – offer one thought or question at a time.
  25. Recognize the important role of humour and laughter. People who have dementia often retain their sense of humour. Laughter is good for the spirit.
  26. Make bathing or showering areas warm before using them.
  27. Create toileting schedules for individuals, not groups – we don’t all have the same routines.
  28. When a resident is trying to say something that you cannot understand, begin by looking for the emotion and start there. For example, say ‘you seem pretty sad,’ or is this upsetting you?’
  29. When you are having a bad day personally, talk to someone. Don’t expect the residents to be able to accommodate your moods or problems.
  30. Remember that sometimes the medication used to help ‘manage behaviour’ can sometimes make things worse with side-effects.
  31. We cannot force a resident’s ability to remember or learn. Don’t ask them to try harder.
  32. Involve residents in doing household tasks like folding clothes, snapping beans, setting tables. For many these will be familiar tasks, normal activities that people did in their homes.
  33. Residents will likely remember longer events that involve strong emotions.
  34. Try to find ways for residents to exercise their need to be in control – give choices. Accept ‘no,’ and re-approach later.
  35. Set realistic and individual goals of care.
  36. Our impatience or rushing will not speed up the process of completing a task.
  37. Routine and structure often provide stability, familiarity and comfort. Accommodate the resident’s best schedule.
  38. Residents who have never been into the social scene may continue to prefer individual activities. Don’t try to change long-standing personality traits.
  39. Always look for a reason behind any behavioural change or disruption. If they are unable to verbally tell us what is bothering them, they try to communicate it however they can. It is OUR job to figure it out.
  40. Make a list of the 10 most important, unique things to know about each resident and share it. Many of these people have led truly remarkable lives!
  41. Sometimes a resident’s behaviour may seem childish, impulsive or inappropriate but always remember that these people have adult feelings.
  42. As the disease progresses, pay more attention to non-verbal communication.
  43. What a person can do may change from day to day – be willing to adjust your expectations and assistance as needed.
  44. Most any activity can be successful if presented well and enthusiastically.
  45. When you feel overwhelmed, ask for help.
  46. Go on outings – many residents love them and often do better than we would expect.
  47. Break down tasks or activities into smaller steps that residents can accomplish successfully.
  48. Learn to recognize if residents are in pain. They often cannot tell us directly.
  49. Remind yourself what it would be like if positions were reversed.
  50. Know just how important you are to the residents – you do make a difference.
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