This is the first in a series of articles on tips for caring for someone with dementia. If you are caring for someone with dementia, you may have noticed that mealtimes and simple activities around the house can be particularly challenging. As their dementia progresses, they may become confused and uncoordinated at mealtime, refuse to open their mouth, spit out food or delay swallowing. Poor nutrition may increase behavioral symptoms and cause weight loss. Simple things around the house, like area rugs, the bathtub or even a sliding glass door, can become dangerous for someone with dementia. However, there are a lot of ways to manage and make mealtime and home time a pleasant and safe experience.
Assisting Hands Dementia Education Program is designed to help families and caregivers better understand and meet the needs of those living with dementia. We’ve added other guides at the end of this article that can help if you are caring for someone with dementia. Here, we’ll cover some suggestions to help with meals and areas around the house.
Some dementia patients begin eating less at mealtimes and prefer to graze throughout the day. If three meals a day are becoming a challenge, aim for 6-8 healthy snacks. Remember that calories are king! Also, be sure to consult with a physician for any food restrictions. Here are some other ideas to make mealtime a little easier:
- Make sure mealtime is calm and quiet. Turn off the TV and radio to limit distractions and clear the table of any clutter.
- Sit down with them while they eat.
- Use colored plates and avoid plates with a pattern. It makes it easier for them to see what’s on their plate.
- Check the temperature of the food.
- Allow plenty of time to eat and chew food.
- Consider finger foods if they prefer to eat with their hands.
- Cut food into bite size pieces before giving them the plate and make sure it’s easy to chew.
- Offer other options as food preferences change.
- Provide drinks throughout the day (sparkling water, Pedialyte, flavored drinks, etc.)
Around The House
Mealtime isn’t the only big challenge when caring for someone with dementia. Simple changes around the house become necessary to ensure safety as their memory, vision, balance and depth perception change. Here are some precautions you can take to keep the home as comfortable and secure as possible:
- Clean up clutter and make sure there is a cleared pathway to walk through the house.
- Remove tripping hazards, like area rugs.
- Clear a path from the bedroom to the bathroom. Keep the bathroom door open at all times.
- Make sure the temperature in the home is comfortable.
- Use nightlights during the night.
- Put non-skid strips in the bathtub and use a bench or shower chair.
- Keep the house well lit during waking hours.
- Remove locks on bedroom and bathroom doors.
- Install locks on exterior doors and make sure they’re out of reach.
- Place a ‘Do Not Enter’ sign on the inside of the front door.
- Include handrails on both sides of all staircases if possible. Consider adding a gate at the opening of a staircase to discourage use.
- Place medications and over-the-counter drugs in a safe place, out of reach.
- Place child proof locks on cabinets with cleaning products.
- Install safety knobs on the stove.
- Supervise the use of small appliances and tools and remove them when they are no longer able to use them safely.
- Place a large sticker or note on any sliding glass door to prevent them from walking into the glass.
It’s also a good idea to keep important phone numbers handy, such as family members, doctors and the Poison Control Center. Also, place important information in a folder on the refrigerator (also known as the ‘File of Life’). This should include: the name of the person suffering from dementia, date of birth, diagnosis, doctor’s name and phone number, medication names and dosages and insurance information.
Assisting Hands specializes in Alzheimer’s and Dementia care and offers professional in-home personal care services to provide caregivers with a much-needed break. Call us at 301-363-2580 and let’s discuss how we can help.
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