Q. What do I need to do as my mom’s Alzheimer’s disease progresses?
First, you need to continually monitor her living situation for safety. You might need to remove the knobs from the stove. If she is going outside by herself and you fear she might wander, you can try putting a dark, solid-colored rug in front of the doors. As the disease progresses, she will see the rug as a hole in the floor and won’t step on it.
Then she needs activities to keep her mind active. Board games and puzzles are good. You can also try playing word games with her. An example would be to complete a proverb: “A penny saved is a …” (penny earned.) Another would be simple questions such as: “What sandwich has the initials P B & J?” (peanut butter and jelly.) Ten or 15 minutes of questions would be enough at any one time.
Listening to familiar music and encouraging her to sing along is a good activity. Old songs or hymns are the best, even someone in the advanced stages will often sing along. Keep the noise level low — loud, distracting sounds could overwhelm her. A caregiver should be able to do these things with her as long as they are provided with the materials. A caregiver would also be able to help her bathe and fix her meals.
It is good to keep to a schedule because she will be more comfortable with familiarity, but the schedule will need to be slowed down. Try to concentrate on enjoying the activity, rather than the result. Break the activity into small steps. For instance, if she enjoyed cooking in the past, have her help you cook now. You could set out the ingredients, like they do on cooking shows, and ask her to add each one to the bowl and stir. Perhaps she could match socks when you are folding laundry. If she is frustrated, change the activity. She will forget the frustration when she is distracted.
Help her reminisce. Place scrapbooks, photo albums or old magazines in key locations and encourage conversation about them. Enjoy supervised outdoor activities like gardening or walking.
When it becomes too much for you to keep her occupied during the day, adult day care would incorporate activities such as these, along with exercise and crafts. Adult day care often is a good option and is usually less expensive than the same number of hours of in-home care.
NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.