Handling Loss of Initiative

Dementia Care Tips to Help with this Struggle

As Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia progress, people can lose interest in day-to-day activities.

“People with Alzheimer’s sometimes lose ‘executive function,’” says Ruth Drew, MS, LPC, Alzheimer's Association director of client and information services. “This impacts their ability to organize their thoughts, have insight, problem-solve and complete complex tasks. If a family member can help them overcome small hurdles, they are often able to continue to live rich, active, rewarding, engaged lives.”

Ms. Drew recommends that caregivers find a way to get their loved one with Alzheimer’s involved in an activity that they enjoyed doing prior to the onset of the disease. “It can help if they get involved in activities they find interesting and enjoyable based on past interests and that fit their current abilities,” she says. “While people with Alzheimer’s may no longer have the organizational skills to make this happen on their own, they may be energized and invigorated by participating in pleasurable activities. This can also have a very positive effect on mood, self-worth, and sense of purpose.”

Ms. Drew’s tips for making this a pleasant experience for both people:

  • Work with the person’s current abilities and do not try to push them to past expectations.
  • There are good days and bad days for people with dementia, so caregivers need to assume that the person is doing their best. “Approach them with patience, gentleness, and kindness,” Ms. Drew says. “Avoid rushing them, getting impatient or frustrated.”
  • Make it a relaxing day filled with pleasant activities. “Even if a person forgets the activity, the good mood often lingers,” she says. “Make even mundane activities more meaningful, with a smile, a hug, a kind word, music, and a chance to laugh.”

All of this is only possible if caregivers also take care of themselves. “Caregivers often put the needs of the person with Alzheimer’s first—sometimes neglecting themselves,” Ms. Drew says. “When you get the rest, support, and information you need, you are able to help the person more effectively.”

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