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Alzheimer's and Other Dementias: Making the Most of Remaining Abilities

Topic Overview

A person who is aware of losing some mental and functional abilities may be depressed or frightened and may feel like a burden to those who take care of him or her. Helping the person stay active and involved may make it easier for both of you. Take advantage of the person's remaining abilities for as long as possible.

  • For as long as he or she is able, allow the person to make decisions about activities, food, clothing, and other choices.
  • Reinforce and support the person's efforts to remain independent, even if tasks take more time or aren't done perfectly.
  • Tailor tasks to the person's abilities. For example, if cooking is no longer safe, ask for help in setting the table, making simple dishes such as salad, or shopping.
  • When the person needs help, offer it gently and discreetly to protect his or her self-esteem.
  • Schedule activities and tasks for times of day when the person is best able to handle them. It may be helpful to build a routine that doesn't vary much from day to day. The person may feel less frustrated or confused with a clear, simple daily schedule.
  • If you feel that the person can go out, give him or her directions. Write down the destination, how to get there, and how to get back home, even if the person has gone there many times before. You may want to get a medical ID bracelet for the person so that you can be contacted if he or she gets lost. And you can program an emergency number into a cell phone.

It is important to give a person with dementia tasks and activities that occupy him or her without pushing too much.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Myron F. Weiner, MD - Psychiatry, Neurology
Last Revised October 29, 2012

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