Families caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are well-aware of the changes and challenges that come with a diagnosis of cognitive change, but they also know that supporting their loved one’s quality of life is critical to their overall health and well-being.
The good news is there are many ways to help those experiencing these changes maintain a purposeful life of joy, growth and engagement. In order to support your family member in the best way possible, the care and attention you provide should be specific to the wants and needs of the individual.
Person-centered care acknowledges that no two people experience Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in the same way, and encourages tailoring support and care to a person’s specific preferences. As these conditions are often progressive in nature, it is important to remember that adaptations may be required as your loved one’s needs change.
Quality of Life and Alzheimer’s Disease: Tips and observations
The following considerations may help provide guidance as your family navigates this journey together:
- Don’t assume that memory loss equals a lower quality of life
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease does not mean that your family member can no longer enjoy an excellent quality of life. While memory impairment and other symptoms can present challenges, there are still many opportunities to enjoy activities and share meaningful moments with others.
- Those living with Alzheimer’s disease still appreciate having fun
Creating activities that speak to a present or past interest, hobby or passion can make a big difference to your loved one. Try to discover what brings them delight and happiness, and find a way to make a connection.
- Always include them in the conversation
Whenever possible, ask your loved one what they would like to do. Having choices and being treated with respect greatly improves quality of life. Even while living with a challenging illness, they still have desires and preferences in how they spend their time.
- Ask questions
If you are unsure of the individual’s likes and dislikes, speak with those who do (other family members, the primary caregiver, etc.). Spend some time thinking of a few activities you could share. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead, but also try to be flexible and adapt to their needs.
- Don’t treat the person as if they are the illness
An individual living with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is much more than their medical condition. Understand their past life, what they presently enjoy and what may still hold interest for them. Don’t define them by any limitations they may have; focus on looking for ways to help them enjoy the moment.
Improving the Quality of Life for Those Living with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Even with a diagnosis of cognitive change, there is still much joy to be experienced.
You may want to modify any of the suggested activities to fit your loved one’s personal preferences, but these ideas can contribute to their living well. Consider how you might incorporate them into your family member’s daily life:
- Physical exercise
Exercise and physical activity benefits both the body and the brain. Not only does it increase circulation, support mobility and improve overall physical health, it can also have a great impact on mental and emotional health, as well.
There are several options to try. Look for those that are of interest to your loved one, such as walking, participating in a sport or playing a game. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise to be effective, either. Taking a yoga class, learning relaxation techniques or how to meditate can also be very beneficial.
- Meaningful activities
What does your loved one enjoy doing? Tapping into their current interests or considering what they may have enjoyed in the past can trigger feelings of happiness and contentment. It’s important that are able to participate in meaningful activities so they feel connected and heard.
You may want to consider some of these options: dancing, looking at old photos, watching a movie, watching a game featuring their favorite team, working on a project together or tending a garden.
- Cognitive exercise
Continuing to participate in activities that stimulate the brain can both benefit your loved one’s cognitive health, as well as bring meaning to their life. Consider interest and ability when choosing different options. Be cautious about proposing activities that are likely to be frustrating or too challenging.
Look for ideas that will engage them and boost their confidence, such as sharing a book whose subject is of interest, playing a musical instrument together or creating a new art project.
- Eating well
Eating the right foods can fuel the body, boost energy levels and help older adults maintain an optimum weight. Additionally, eating well can support optimal brain health, making a person function and feel better in the process. Healthy foods can also be delicious and if the meal is shared, it provides an opportunity to be social.
Consider preparing some of your loved one’s favorite foods. The simple act of sharing one of these meals might spark wonderful memories, particularly those that honor any long-standing family traditions. Cooking or baking is also a great way to spend quality time together.
- Moving to a memory care community
As a progressive illness, the needs of a person living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia may exceed what a family can provide. Moving a loved one to a memory care community may be the best solution, as many families have found that the quality of life of their loved one improved significantly after the transition.
While this occurs for many reasons, one of the more dominant factors is that a community provides several activity options, therapies and other experiences that are specifically designed to engage and support those living with cognitive change. The care teams working in these environments are specially trained to help to keep them feeling safe, secure and fulfilled.
Life at Eskaton Communities
The word Eskaton means “dawn of a new day.” In our communities, we see each day as an opportunity to enhance the lives of our residents. We’ve been serving the Sacramento region and Northern California for over 50 years.
The Eskaton Difference starts with our life-enriching programs and collaborative partnerships. With a national reputation for innovation, we focus on creating communities that provide our residents everything they need for purposeful living. We invite you to visit one of our award-winning communities to discover some of the benefits we offer, such as:
- Private residences
- Delicious and nutritious meals
- Social opportunities to meet and make new friends
- Creative activities and therapies
- Fitness centers and exercise classes
- Housekeeping services
- Transportation services
- 24-hour staffing
- Free Wi-Fi
- And much, much more!
If you’re considering whether senior living could be the best choice for you or your loved one, we’re here to answer any questions that you may have. We also invite you to download our complimentary information, A Family Guide to Funding Senior Care & Housing.
To schedule a personalized tour, call us at 1-866-ESKATON or (1-866-375-2866) or visit eskaton.org.