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Caregiver Response Rules for Alzheimer's


Updated: November 7, 2006

Rules of Engagement for Caregivers and Alzheimer's

When someone begins to develop the early signs of Alzheimer's it is alarming to them and to the caregiver. Alzheimer's disease attacks the central organic core of our being, the brain. The changes and destruction to the brain fundamentally changes who we are, how we view the world and interact with it.

Personality changes, an increasing dependance on family members, the gradual but increasing memory loss and changes in relationship dynamics are difficult to deal with no matter how strong your relationship was prior to the onset of Alzheimer's. Even though a caregiver can understand the processes that are occurring, matching those changes and responding appropriately to the person with Alzheimer's requires patience, skill and knowledge.

Guidelines for Caregiver Response in Alzheimer's

  • Treat the person with Alzheimer's as an adult not a child

  • This sounds obvious but can be hard at times when a formally competent person seems to be acting in an unreasonable way. We have all heard nurses speaking to people with dementia in a rather childish way so it is an easy trap to fall into. An interaction where both people make contributions is the one to nurture. Never condescend.

  • Never argue with someone who has dementia

  • Never argue with someone who has dementia it will only cause frustration at best. Arguing will only increase agitation- for both of you!

  • Never force someone with Alzheimer's to do something

  • If someone with Alzheimer's is refusing to do something never force them or demand they do it, or make them feel bad for not doing it. It will just be too frustrating for you and ultimately make you feel bad. Non urgent tasks can always wait. Walk away, calm down and try the task again later.

  • Never use the phrase he/she knows what they are doing to someone with dementia

  • This statement is usually used in a situation when someone with Alzheimer's seems to be acting unreasonably. It is true that someone with Alzheimer's will have more insight into the way they are at different times, especially in the early stages of the disease. If you attempt to try to discern at what points these are it will only increase frustration. A calm helpful, supportive approach is the one that will get the best results both emotionally and physically.

  • Do not remind a person with Alzheimer's that their memory is bad

  • The best way to maintain the dignity of someone with Alzheimer's is to repeat information for them not to remind them how much they have forgotten.

  • Always praise and encourage people with Alzheimer's
  • Divert behavior/attention when the going gets tough
  • Always reassure someone with Alzheimer's

  • Alzheimer's is a confusing and, at times, frightening disease. Calm reassurance will help someone with Alzheimer's feel safe and secure.

  • Treat the person with Alzheimer's in the way you would wish to be treated.
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