When we first moved Mom in with us, we knew we had to lock up her meds because she was very confused on when to take her meds and what exactly she needed to take. We have cabinets that don't have handles so we learned from our fantastic neighbor Lynda about magnetic locks. They can be found most places. We bought ours at Home Depot. It was very simple to install and a switch can be turned on or off whenever you don't need to use it. Just do a search online for magnetic cabinet locks and you will see several types of these locks.
Using Doctor Prescriptions
This one was a fantastic idea that I learned from one of the Alzheimer's sites that I follow. I first used it when we wouldn't allow Mom to drive anymore. (When she lived in California, she had got lost on a simple run to town to get her nails done. She ended up 30 miles down the highway and couldn't remember how to get home. That was one of the major reasons we moved her back to Texas.)
Get a dr to write a prescription to say no driving for a period of time.
I have also recently used this to persuade her to take a shower more than once a week by having the prescription say "at least 2-3 showers per week to reduce infections". So far, so good. It has worked.
Mom has not become a wanderer yet, due mostly to her mobility issues, but I read a fantastic idea about hanging a picture of a bookshelf on the door.
We also installed a dead bolt high up on our door.
Another tip I learned about is to remove items like coats, purses, keys. etc., that are associate with going outside away from the door.
Accidents Will Happen
Here are several ideas that we use:
1) keep a bag with extra clothes, underclothes, incontinence pads, etc. in the car (Think "diaper bag" for an adult.)
2) use washable pads like hospitals use for the bed (we use these for our dog too!!). Just do an internet search - you will find many different types. There are disposable kinds but we prefer the washable kind.
3) we have a potty chair near Mom's bed for her. I use commode liners that can be bought at most department stores. Yes, it's a little more expensive but I just prefer not to have to handle washing this out each night. At some point when she is in her final stage of Alzheimer's, I know I will have to handle cleaning her personally but until then as long as she is able to use the potty chair, I will use as many conveniences as possible. (I did try doing my own make-shift potty chair liners by buying small garbage bags and baby diapers to soak up the liquid but it ended up being more hassle than it was worth.)
When your loved one gets to the stage of wearing diapers, don't call them "diapers" to preserve their dignity. You can call them briefs or underpants.
When we first moved Mom in with us, we used a label maker to label each of our cabinets and drawers so that she would know where everything is located.
Keep jigsaw puzzles (we found that 300 pieces was about the max she could handle but that # is slowly reducing). Reach out to friends or go garage sale shopping because these can get expensive! The good thing is by the time she has finished all the puzzles, she can start back over and never remember she has worked on that puzzle before. 🙂
Mom also loves the black felt art posters with markers. We found a cheap easel so she thinks she is "painting".
Play dominoes with her. She probably won't be able to count points but she can match the dots.
Get her outside in nature as much as possible. We bought a scooter for her to follow us when we go for a walk. She gets fresh air and scenery and we get exercise!
Sorting activities are great too. Men who used to be mechanics or carpenters can sort nuts, bolts, and screws. Women who used to sew can sort buttons and silverware/colored plasticware.
Routine, Routine, Routine
Keep your loved one in a routine as much as possible. Showers same time and days of the week, meals at the same time, etc.
I have a good friend that told me that her husband would get very upset during the holidays when things were out of his normal routine. I've noticed that Mom gets more agitated when something is out of the "norm".
Rewards for doing something she doesn't want to do can really help. We read this on one of our favorite Alzheimer's Caregiver site and it surprisingly helps a lot. The favorite reward is a little ice cream cup.
I also read on a major Alzheimer's info site that patients really like sweets because their taste buds are changing from the disease. The sweet taste makes eating more pleasurable. I have definitely noticed that Mom doesn't eat many of the things she loved before. Spaghetti has become a no-no now because she doesn't like the "red sauce". She used to love vegetables but doesn't like many of them now. She says she doesn't like cheese but if I make Macaroni and Cheese but call it "Macaroni and Sauce", she will eat it. Be creative... 🙂
My mom struggles with this but when we took her to an adult day care designed specifically for dementia patients, they used tactics like:
- dancing to upbeat music from their younger years
- using pool noodles
- tapping balloons or pool balls in the air
- drum beating
Keep photo albums near so that your loved one can go through them often. We have a ton of them so I will trade out albums every so often. She really loves seeing the photos of her when she was young the most because those are the stories that are remembered the most.
Your loved one is going to get LOTS of stories mixed up. My mom, personally, has told us about trips she has been on that we know good and well she never took. There was one particular story about Hawaii. We just nodded our heads and told her to tell us more. That was her reality and there is no reason to upset her by telling her it never happened.
My mom now doesn't remember many of the events that happened when my sister and I were young. She has different versions of her life now and we just let her go with it. For example, she thinks my step-dad (who entered out lives in the early 2000's) was our real dad.
Be with them in their reality.
Take Care of YOURSELF!
Caregiving is hard work - emotionally and sometimes physically (especially towards the end of the disease).
Enlist the help of your family, friends, neighbors to sit with your loved one as often as possible so that you can take a break, go to a movie, go grocery shopping, etc. We are fortunate that my sister comes up every other weekend to give us a little break.
And hear this - it is completely natural to feel guilt over this whole process. I can't tell you how many times I fight internally about wanting my life back but knowing that when I do have my life back means that my Mom won't be with me anymore.
Forgive yourself for these feelings and know they are natural. I even struggle with some feelings I have towards my Mom that were less than loving. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my mom dearly but there were lots of times I didn't like her. But then my Christian upbringing kicks in and I war with myself about forgiving and forgetting. It's a struggle but I will tell you that having my mom with us the last two years has been a blessing in disguise. It has allowed me to heal a lot of the feelings I had towards her.
I am committed to making sure my Mom's last days are as loving and comfortable for her as possible. She didn't have an easy time of it, much of it based on bad decisions she made, but I can make the last few years of her life as easy as possible.