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  1. My 78-year-old father is experiencing the early stages of dementia. What can I do to minimize his frustration?... Read more
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Q: My 78-year-old father is experiencing the early stages of dementia. What can I do to minimize his frustration?

A: First, be sure that your father has been thoroughly assessed by a physician and that he is properly diagnosed. In some cases, dementia symptoms are caused by a treatable medical condition. If your father has been diagnosed with a progressive (irreversible) dementia, continue to pay close attention to his behavior and his complaints—and report any changes to his doctor. The doctor may propose treatments that will have the effect of reducing feelings of frustration.

As a family caregiver, you will have many opportunities to manage his experience to help reduce frustration. It helps to stick to a daily schedule. Program your dad’s routine so that activities of daily living such as dressing, eating and bathing occur at about the same time each day. Incorporate as many of his regular activities and habits as possible from the days before he showed signs of dementia.

Lifestyle choices can also reduce frustration, while helping to improve quality of life. For example, provide a healthy diet, regular hydration and as much physical exercise as practical. Try to keep his mind engaged continually throughout the day with simple activities and to maintain social contacts.

One way to promote both activities and socialization is by enrolling your father in a social adult day program. Another is to round up friends to visit him and to direct him in activities. Selection of mental and physical activities should strike a balance, promoting autonomy but avoiding frustration. If an activity proves frustrating, adjust or eliminate it so that your dad can enjoy success at most of the things he attempts.

One excellent source of activities is “Keeping Busy: An Activities Guide for Persons with Dementia” by James R. Dowling. You will also find activities in the “Best for Last” column feature in each issue of care ADvantage magazine, a free quarterly magazine for caregivers published by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

Along with promoting stable daily routines, engaging activities and stimulating social interactions, you can cultivate your loved one’s sense of security and comfort through the way you communicate with him. Find ways to continually reassure him that you love him and will take care of him. Use your smile, words and gestures to let him know you care.

For more information, please go to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America website.

Top Tip

Avoid caregiver burnout. Make time for yourself. Join caregiver support groups. Pursue interests beyond your caregiving role, such as exercise, hobbies, journaling and art.

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