Promoting Independence Through Assistance With Activities Of Daily Living

How to Assist a patient with Alzheimer’s Disease with Their ADLs

If you have a patient with Alzheimer’s disease who needs help with activities of daily living, you can use the expert tips below to improve the quality of their life:

A caregiver, sometimes referred to as a caretaker, refers to anyone who provides care for another person. Millions of people living in the United States take care of a friend or family member with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Sometimes caregivers live with the person or nearby, other times they live far away. For many families, caring for a person with dementia isn’t just one person’s job, but the role of many people who share tasks and responsibilities. No matter what kind of caregiver you are, taking care of another person can be overwhelming at times. These tips and suggestions may help with everyday care and tasks.


Tips for a Healthy and Active Lifestyle for People With Dementia

Eating healthy and staying active is good for everyone and is especially important for people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. As the disease progresses, finding ways for the person to eat healthy foods and stay active may be increasingly challenging. Here are some tips that may help:

Consider different activities the person can do to stay active, such as household chores, cooking and baking, exercise, and gardening. Match the activity to what the person can do.

Help get an activity started or join in to make the activity more fun. People with dementia may lack interest or initiative and can have trouble starting activities. But, if others do the planning, they may join in.

Add music to exercises or activities if it helps motivate the person. Dance to the music if possible.

Be realistic about how much activity can be done at one time. Several short “mini-workouts” may be best.

Take a walk together each day. Exercise is good for caregivers, too!

Buy a variety of healthy foods, but consider food that is easy to prepare, such as premade salads and single portions.

Give the person choices about what to eat, for example, “Would you like yogurt or cottage cheese?”




Tips for Everyday Care for People with Dementia

Early on in Alzheimer’s and related dementias, people experience changes in thinking, remembering, and reasoning in a way that affects daily life and activities. Eventually, people with these diseases will need more help with simple, everyday tasks. This may include bathing, grooming, and dressing. It may be upsetting to the person to need help with such personal activities. Here are a few tips to consider early on and as the disease progresses:

Try to keep a routine, such as bathing, dressing, and eating at the same time each day.

Help the person write down to-do lists, appointments, and events in a notebook or calendar.

Plan activities that the person enjoys and try to do them at the same time each day.

Consider a system or reminders for helping those who must take medications regularly.

When dressing or bathing, allow the person to do as much as possible.

Buy loose-fitting, comfortable, easy-to-use clothing, such as clothes with elastic waistbands, fabric fasteners, or large zipper pulls instead of shoelaces, buttons, or buckles.

Use a sturdy shower chair to support a person who is unsteady and to prevent falls. You can buy shower chairs at drug stores and medical supply stores.

Be gentle and respectful. Tell the person what you are going to do, step by step while you help them bathe or get dressed.

Serve meals in a consistent, familiar place and give the person enough time to eat.



General tips for activities of daily living for Alzheimer’s patients:

  • Keep in mind the person’s abilities and encourage independence as much as possible;
  • Split complex activities into mini-tasks your loved one will be able to understand;
  • Get tasks done one at a time and allow plenty of time for their completion;
  • Give simple, step-by-step instructions;
  • Speak slowly and clearly and keep your voice calm and reassuring;
  • Repeat or rephrase as necessary;
  • Avoid giving too many choices or asking confusing or unnecessary questions;
  • Avoid explanations of why the activity is needed or what will happen if it is not done;
  • Keep eye contact with the person when talking to them to ensure that their attention is focused on what you’re saying;
  • Use gestures and prompts to help the person with dementia understand what needs to be done and to make them start a task;
  • Do not point out mistakes and do not let your loved one feel frustrated or tired;
  • Acknowledge your loved one’s efforts and praise them when they complete a task;
  • Establish a routine – schedule activities for the same time of the day and do them in the same way every time.


Assistance with eating:

Over time people living with dementia can find it difficult to use cutlery and their food preferences may change. In later stages of dementia people may need support from loved ones or carers to help them eat. Some people may experience difficulties with chewing and swallowing.

  • Ensure your loved one doesn’t skip meals;
  • Provide a balanced, nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein foods, and low-fat dairy products and plenty of healthy fluids;
  • Provide adaptive utensils – plate with rims, spoons with larger handles, and other easy-to-handle eating utensils;
  • Avoid serving food that is too hot or too difficult to chew;
  • Encourage independent eating – serve finger foods that are easier to handle, cut meat and vegetables into smaller pieces, etc.;
  • Be ready to provide feeding assistance if necessary;
  • Remind your loved one to drink water and offer liquids on a regular schedule.

Needless to say, you need to do all the shopping, cooking, and cleaning for your loved one in the later stages of the disease.

Assistance with dressing and grooming:

  • Provide loose-fitting, comfortable clothes that are easy to put on and take off. Garments and shoes with Velcro straps and large zippers are preferable to buttons and shoelaces;
  • Let the person decide what to wear, but offer a limited choice of garments appropriate for the current climatic conditions, the occasion your loved one is going to attend, or the activities they will be doing;
  • If your loved one can dress themselves, lay out the clothes in the order they’re to be put on;
  • Remind your loved one to comb their hair or do it for them if they cannot complete the task themselves;
  • If your loved one is able, take them to the salon or barbershop at regular intervals – it may be a fun and positive experience;
  • Make sure your loved one’s nails are trimmed and cared for;
  • Use an electric razor for shaving to reduce the risk of cuts;
  • Provide appropriate skin-care products and help your loved one apply them correctly.


Assistance with personal hygiene – bathing, dental care, and toileting:

People with dementia can experience problems with using the toilet. Some people may find it difficult to get to the toilet in time because of problems with coordination and movement. In later stages of dementia incontinence is common and people will need lots of practical support to manage this.

As a person’s dementia progresses they will need increasing support with washing and bathing. To begin with someone may need reminding to bathe or wash their hair. Over time people living with dementia will need full support with washing and personal care routines.

As dementia progresses a person is likely to need help to have a wash, brush their teeth and take care of their hair, hands and fingernails. In later stages of dementia people may need these tasks done for them by a carer or loved one.

A person with dementia can find getting dressed on their own difficult and they may need help with things like buttons and shoelaces. As dementia progresses it can be helpful to have support choosing what to wear and getting dressed, to make sure clothes are comfortable and are put on correctly.

  • Encourage your loved one to bathe regularly;
  • Make the bathroom as safe as possible – consider walk-in tubs and showers, install grab rails along the bathroom walls, place rubber mats on the floor to prevent slipping, provide a bath stool, etc.;
  • Make sure the bathroom is warm and well-lit;
  • Always check the temperature of the water in the bath or shower as people with dementia may misjudge the temperature and end up bathing with very hot or very cold water;
  • Let your loved one wash themselves if they’re able to. If needed, guide them through each step with simple instructions;
  • Do not leave your loved one unattended in the shower or tub if they’re frail or confused;
  • Make sure that areas underneath any folds of skin and difficult-to-reach areas are cleaned and dried well after the shower;
  • Pat the skin dry – do not rub. Apply lotion to keep the skin soft and supple;
  • Remind your loved one to brush their teeth and assist them as necessary;
  • If the person wears dentures, clean them every day, check that the dentures fit properly, and examine the gums for sores or areas of redness;
  • Consider raised toilet seats and install grab rails near the toilet;
  • Schedule routine bathroom visits to prevent accidents;
  • Be ready to assist your loved one with using the toilet and ensure proper wiping and proper washing of hands;
  • Consider a bedside commode or urinal if getting to the bathroom is a problem.

If housekeeping and personal care become too much, do not hesitate to seek out in-home care services. Professional caregivers will provide your loved one with excellent care and will offer emotional support and friendly companionship. Using home care services will allow your elderly family member to continue living safely and comfortably in their home and will ensure your peace of mind. Specialized dementia care services will help relieve the stress and improve the quality of life of your loved one. Senior home care is your best bet when a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia needs help with activities of daily living.

Assistance with mobility and walking

To begin with someone with dementia may not need physical support while walking, but some types of dementia can cause changes to the way a person walks or their balance early on. At first the use of walkers or sticks may only be necessary when away from home, but over time mobility at home can also become affected. Eventually people may require lots of help to walk or to move between a bed or a chair. Some people will need to use a wheelchair.

Assistance with Transportation

Driving can give someone a lot of independence but because dementia affects thinking, reasoning and reactions most people will have to stop driving. Some people may be eligible to take a medical assessment to see if they can continue to drive. When someone is diagnosed with dementia, they must let the Department of Motor Vehicles know. A person living with dementia may need to rely on public transport or loved ones to get to the shops or appointments.

Using public transport like a bus or train can help people living with dementia to get around and stay independent. People may need some extra support to remember routes and timetables. As dementia progresses people may feel more comfortable staying closer to home and travelling only when they are with someone else.

Dementia can affect a person’s ability to remember street names or follow instructions to get somewhere, such as directions on a map. This means people can get easily lost or disorientated, even in a familiar place. As dementia progresses, people may prefer to go out with a loved one or carer so that they do not feel lost or disorientated when they are away from home.

Managing Finances

Looking after money, paying the bills on time, and keeping on top of finances can be difficult and sometimes overwhelming for someone living with dementia. This can be challenging even in the early stages of dementia. People can find it helpful to have a financial advisor to support them but many people choose to arrange a Lasting Power of Attorney to manage finances on their behalf.

Taking Medications

Lots of people struggle to remember to take their medication, but people with dementia often find it harder to do this. Some find it useful to have their medication organized in a box with the time and day on it to help them keep track. As dementia progresses, people may need someone there to support them with taking their medication.

Using Technology

A lot of everyday tasks such as banking, shopping, and staying in touch with people involves using the internet, or the use of technology. People living with dementia can find it difficult to use computers, web pages and apps. As dementia progresses people may no longer be able to use certain technologies, even simple things like alarm clocks, and need support from others to access and use them.



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