Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease alone is not an indication of incompetence. This condition involves both progressive neurodegeneration as well as day-to-day fluctuations in cognition, including verbal recognition, attention, reaction time, and spatial memory, directly responsible for the patients’ level of impairment of daily activities such as cooking, banking and driving.
There are however some measures you can take to help a person maintain their autonomy as long as possible and regain or maintain their self-esteem. It is very important to encourage independence. We must support and help the person in their daily activities, but we must not replace them and do things for them. It is important that it is the person who performs the tasks, even if it takes longer. Anything that the person fails to do or practice will soon be forgotten or the ability lost.
- Offer your assistance without taking control over everything;
- Encourage and reassure the person giving them more time to complete tasks,
- You can inform the shopkeeper that the person can leave, forgetting to pay. It can be easy to make an agreement for situations like this;
- You can offer yourself to pay the bills, ask the Bank to do so, or by a power of guardian, which would give you the power to act officially in the name of the person with Dementia;
- You can also notify the service companies when they become aware of it, to ensure that there are no power cuts, telephone or water;
Caregivers should seek the least restrictive alternative when a person is experiencing difficulties in some specific are area. Appointment of a legal guardian for specific tasks, such as financial affairs, might allow a person with Alzheimer’s to maintain a degree of independence and exercise autonomy over other matters.
There are various ways of providing assistance, depending on the level of understanding and capacity of the person with dementia. For example, you can let the person wash themselves, providing just a little help when necessary, or you can explain or demonstrate, step by step, what to do.
At first, symptoms such as memory impairment and memory loss can be so mild that they can go unnoticed by the affected person, his family and friends. But as the illness progresses, they become more and more noticeable and begin to interfere with routine and social activities.
"Sometimes my partner goes back in his mind to the time when he was still working, and is anxious not to be late for work. At first I would tell him that he was no longer working, but he would stubbornly argue. So I started telling him that everything is fine, and that today he doesn't have to go to work".
Memory loss is one of the most important symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. It is even often the first sign, which leads people to suspect that there is a problem and and seek medical help. In any case it is important to realise that people tend to lose their memory gradually rather than suddenly.
There are many different ways of losing one's memory. In Alzheimer's disease the memory for recent events tends to be the most affected, with long-term memory persisting for many years after the onset of the disease. You have probably noticed that a person with dementia can remember things they did years ago, while they no longer know whether they had a snack or not. You have probably also noticed how memory loss interferes with daily routine tasks, and even during a conversation.
In fact, one of the key facts of memory impairment is the difficulty in learning. Some types of memory loss can be embarrassing for you (e.g. when you forget your name), or worrying (e.g. when you forget to turn off the gas). But this can also be very upsetting for you. It can be a source of confusion, humiliation and shame. Especially in the early stages, the person with Dementia may try to hide some of the consequences of memory loss by embarrassment or shame. Later, they may no longer be aware of memory problems, but still suffer the consequences, such as loss of independence and frustration.
Fortunately, caregivers can provide useful and practical assistance, as well as emotional support, to the person with dementia. This can help them reduce the negative consequences of memory loss and you may even feel closer to the person and more involved in their life. It is however important that you make an effort to accept that your everyday life will change. Things will stop being the way they were.
How to deal with memory loss
- Try to maintain a positive attitude and foster calm;
- Do not take the behaviour to heart
- Avoid drawing too much attention to mistakes and problems;
- Remember some of the things the person has talked about previously and use written signs or messages.
How to avoid problems due to memory loss
- Adapt things at home and then avoid making unnecessary changes
- Create routines.
- Use visual clues (e.g. post-its)
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