Activities and Communication Tips for a Better Quality of Life

(Central New Hampshire – November 4, 2009) – Alzheimer’s Disease has been a hot topic in recent headlines, and for good reason. The progressive, degenerative neurological disease for which there is presently no cure affects an estimated 35 million people worldwide – a 10 percent increase over 2005. According to the 2009 World Alzheimer Report, the number of people with Alzheimer’s is projected to double every 20 years, to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050. Worldwide, the estimated annual economic cost of dementia is $315 billion. Every 70 seconds, someone in the US develops Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. As the more than 77 million American baby boomers begin reaching the age of greater risk, this disease and its effects simply cannot be ignored.

Because many in our local community are affected in some way by Alzheimer’s or dementia, Live Free Home Health Care is helping raise awareness of the enormous impact of this increasing epidemic. The disease can take a physical, emotional and mental toll on patients, families and caregivers. As communication skills fade for a person with Alzheimer’s, caregivers often find it frustrating to support the person’s sense of self while trying to minimize skills that may be compromised due to the disease.

“With Alzheimer’s, a daily routine is essential,” said Jennifer Harvey RN, BSN, Owner, Clinical Director of Live Free Home Health Care. “Activities that are done regularly, even at the same time every day if possible, may help establish routine and increase the person’s sense of stability. Following structured activity ideas that involve and interest the person w/ Alzheimer’s will help minimize the disturbing behaviors associated with the disease,” such as agitation, anger, frustration, depression, wandering or rummaging.

Harvey offers the following structured activity ideas for helping Alzheimer’s patients experience a better quality of life:

  • Motor: Take a walk, do chair exercises, stretch, or even do a dance using just the hands – the important thing is to encourage some sort of movement.
  • Sensory: Listening to music on tapes or CDs (not the radio, as commercials can be confusing) while looking at old photographs, watching TV or movies, looking at picture books, sniffing perfume, soap and spices, or working on basic art projects are beneficial to the patient. Be careful to avoid sensory overload by eliminating competing noises.
  • Interactive: Invite friends or relatives over for tea or coffee, reminisce, asking basic questions while looking at old photos, play simple card or board games, or try pet therapy (be sure to match the animal’s activity and energy level with that of the individual).
  • Cognitive: Practice computerized memory exercises, do simple crossword puzzles or word finds, play games such as “Simon Says” or “I Spy”.

Because Alzheimer’s gradually diminishes a person’s ability to communicate, it is important to help people with dementia express their thoughts and emotions, as well as help them understand others. Here are some tips to help in communication and understanding:

  • Create a ‘kind voice,’ talking slower, lower and clearly, smiling in the process.
  • To orient the person and obtain his or her attention, call the person by name, identify yourself, and be sure to approach from the front so there are no surprises.
  • Ask one question at a time, using short simple words and sentences.
  • Avoid using logic and reason, as well as quizzing.
  • Avoid criticizing, correcting or arguing, and do not take any negative communication personally.
  • Let the person know you are listening and trying to understand what is being said by maintaining eye contact, being careful not to interrupt.
  • Patiently wait for a response as extra time may be required to process your request; repeat information and questions. If there is no response, wait a moment before asking again.
  • Focus on the feelings, not the facts, as sometimes the emotions being expressed are more important than what is being said.
  • Let the person think about and describe whatever he or she wants.

If you fear someone you love may be showing signs of dementia or early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, Live Free Home Health Care recommends a memory screening. Though a memory screening is not used to diagnose any particular illness and does not replace consultation with a qualified physician or other healthcare professional, it is a good first step towards diagnosis and treatment. For more information about memory screenings in the local community or dementia and depression in older adults, please contact Live Free Home Health Care.

About Live Free Home Health Care, LLC:

Serving central and northern New Hampshire, Live Free Home Health Care, LLC is dedicated to providing top quality care in the comfort of home as an alternative to assisted living facilities or nursing homes. Family owned and operated, Live Free Home Health Care offers a wide range of services, from companion care and assistance with activities of daily living to skilled nursing, and all care is supervised and updated by a registered nurse. Live Free Home Health Care also offers medical alert systems to provide extra peace of mind should an emergency care need arise. Whether the need is for short or long term care, Live Free Home Health Care’s compassionate staff promises to treat each client respectfully and like a cherished family member. For further information, contact (603) 217-0149 or visit www.LiveFreeHomeHealthCare.com.