These are the ten commandments of dementia caregiving.
I. I am still me…I may forget parts of my life but I will never forget that I am an adult deserving dignity. Neither should you. My memories may go but my personality stays
II. Treat me like an adult. My behavior may be child-like, but NEVER treat me like a child. No baby talk!
III. Come into my world, I can’t function in yours. This means that I can’t remember what happened 5 minutes ago but I can remember something from 50 years ago. Please don’t argue with me, I don’t understand why you are angry and I feel terrible for hours afterward.
IV. Actions are better than words. No big explanations, a gentle touch or hug, and a warm smile goes a long way.
V. Give me a daily, consistent schedule. Consistent schedules tap the memories that I have and strengthen the parts of the brain that are still working. I feel better with schedules, even if I cannot remember them.
VI. Give me nature. I need fresh air and sunshine. Please make sure I get out every day, even if it is on a porch or patio, or near a big bay window, where I can watch the birds.
VII. Give me pleasurable activities. I may forget that you took me out to lunch, or we went fishing, but the pleasurable feelings and emotions that came from that experience will last for hours.
VIII. Give me social interaction on my terms. I can’t handle large gatherings but I can visit with a couple of people, especially if they are following Commandment #3. Again, I may forget that the grandkids came to visit, but the pleasurable feelings and emotions from that visit will persist hours after the visit.
IX. Keep me safe. That means giving me the freedom to move about my home as much as possible without falling or getting hurt. You may need to be creative, like hanging pictures of a bookshelf over a door to keep me from leaving.
X. Keep me healthy. Help me to eat good foods to stay as healthy as possible, and help me to avoid infections.
This content was originally published on July 12, 2016, on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room.