|Mom had picked up one of the Anne of Green Gables books and had recorded the title and author here. She'd also spilled her water on the notebook!|
It is a common misconception that Alzheimer patients cannot learn new information. In my experience with my mother's Alzheimer's disease, I've found she is able to learn, but she requires many repetitions and visual prompts to do so. Keep in mind that my mother is still in the-mid stages of Alzheimer's--approximately early stage 5.
Here are some of the ways we have established routines that have made my mom's days run more smoothly:
- She receives her medication, meals, and snacks at about the same time each day.
- I use a large white board placed in her direct line of vision to record the day's events. This helps her to remember that she has had interactions with other people. Otherwise, she begins to feel that she might be neglected.
- A clock and a calendar are very important for my mother's peace of mind. And so these have been placed within her direct line of vision.
- Easy access to a notebook and pen is a must. My mother already had established the habit of journaling, and so this was not a new behavior. Dementia patients are greatly helped if they can form the habit of recording the day's events. Mom was in early/mid stages of A.D. when she came to live with us, and was able to establish the habit of keeping a running record of the day's events as a memory aid.
- I've established a regular sequence of events for rituals such as dressing and bathing. We follow this sequence every day. Mom never remembers the sequence well enough to anticipate what she should do next, but she is able to remember that she can ask me. Her initial resentment at having to take direction from me has dissipated over the years. I'm her go-to information source now; I really think she has a similar relationship to me as I have with the Google search engine. Anything Mom needs to know makes her think of me (sigh).
For me the rockiest days of caregiving thus far have been those early months of adjusting to one another in our new roles as caregiver and patient. It took nearly a year for the adjustment to be complete. During that first year Mom suffered a fall that broke her collar bone followed immediately by a bout of pneumonia. Who would have thought that seven years later my caregiving duties for my mother would actually be lighter than they were then? There have been no more falls, and at 87 years of age, Mom is in good physical health. I share this to in order to encourage new caregivers not to give up too easily. Some dementia patients can experience improvement and adjust to a new living situation, given proper medication and time.