Ask a Caregiver: Tips to Help Loved Ones with Alzheimer's
Sue Monteyne is a former caregiver and current volunteer at the Smith Alzheimer’s Center’s Beyond the Medical Center programs. If you would like to submit a question to Ask a Caregiver, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: I want to take my loved one to a favorite restaurant but make the process as enjoyable as possible. Any tips?
SUE: Sometimes restaurant menus can be overwhelming even for those without memory loss. I would look up the menu online and decide what we wanted before going to the restaurant (have a backup choice just in case).
We would also practice the choice while the server was gone so my husband could maintain his dignity and order his own meal.
Q: How should I answer repetitive questions?
SUE: I used to keep a white board on the end table next to his chair with the day of the week, date and events of that day. (ex. Wednesday, June 29, 2022. Go to doctor 10:00. Go to Art Express 1:00) On the bottom half of the board, I would also include the next day. (ex. tomorrow, Stepping Up 12:00. Kids coming for dinner 6:00)
This helped considerably with repeated questions like, “What are we doing?” or “Where are we going?”
Q: Friends and family members seem unsure how to talk to my loved one now. What can I tell them to make it easier?
SUE: Friends and family should talk to your loved one just like they always have. Don’t talk about them as if they weren’t there. That just belittles them. Don’t quiz them. Don’t continually ask if they remember something and insist that they do. This will just cause the person with memory loss to feel frustrated and insecure.
Just be patient and understanding and believe what they say to be true. Because for some reason, they believe it is.
Q: How do I continue to live my life while helping my loved one?
SUE: Life goes on. Live it! Enjoy it! Make new memories. We continued to travel all over the world.
Airports can be challenging to navigate. I carried a card stating, “The person I am with has dementia. Sometimes he answers slowly, gets easily upset or seems confused. Your patience and kindness are appreciated. Thank you.”
I translated this card into the languages of the countries we visited. I secretly showed it to ticket agents, security and customs. I also got permission (and was always kindly granted) to board the plane early to reduce the stress of your loved one feeling rushed.
Take advantage of family and/or accessible bathrooms so you can go together. Do not assume the person with memory loss will wait for you when exiting their bathroom. Most likely, they will go looking for you.
Travel with groups. You would be surprised how many people will gladly step up and help when made aware of the situation.
These tips are presented by an experienced caregiver. This information is not intended to replace treatment, care, or advice from a qualified professional. To make an appointment with the Smith Alzheimer’s Center, call 217.545.8000.