Alzheimer’s disease is a physical disease that causes a buildup of proteins in the brain, which then forms structures known as ‘tangles’ or ‘plaques’, that can cause nerve cells to die, as they block signals and connections in the brain. This can cause a significant loss of brain tissue, as well as limiting the production of chemicals in the brain meaning that important messages are no longer delivered. Dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK and 520,000 of them have Alzheimer’s disease. One of the main symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss, increased confusion and a decline in cognitive functions. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease develops slowly over a number of years, and every patient will experience the illness differently. Memory loss is a symptoms that can be incredibly distressing for both the patient and their family members, which is why it is important to utilise the support and therapies that are available once a diagnosis has been made. Projects and tasks that help calm patients down, with the goal of making them feel safe and comfortable is imperative, getting specialised home care services also being highly beneficial to help patients deal with their day to day routine. There are also activities that can be used to improve memories should always be taken into consideration. Here are a few tips and tricks to help stimulate memory.
Stay Calm and Be Understanding
Communicating and spending time with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease can be incredibly frustrating and distressing for both parties involved. Alzheimer’s causes patients to forget certain words, lose their train of thought, understanding what words mean and much more. Memory loss can have a severe effect on someone’s ability to communicate, which is why it is important to stay calm, be very considerate and really understanding when talking to someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Finding out that a loved one does not remember who you are can be devastating, but it is important to remember that when your relative or friend is lashing out, it is their disease taking control. It can be very difficult but try not to take it personally and stay positive. Make sure your body language and tone of voice is warm, welcoming so that the person you are talking to feels comfortable and safe. If communication becomes stressful or upsetting for the patient then calmly distract the person with an activity you know they enjoy. Holding the person’s hand whilst you talk to them, and offering gentle touches will also help to calm them – especially when they are struggling with their train of thought and emotions. If it becomes too much for you to handle then take a five minute break and try again.
Try Brain Training Apps
Brain training games and apps have become a phenomenon in the medical field. Game based applications that require players to stimulate the cognitive and memory functions of the brain are proven to strengthen the player’s ability to pay attention and problem solve. Brain training games can help to improve patients undertaking everyday tasks, such as going on public transport and cooking meals, giving them their independence back. These brain training activities help sufferers to maintain their cognitive functions, as well as using their memory for exercises. Free brain training applications such as Lumosity (for IOS and Android) offers a plethora of brain training and scientific games to help strengthen the brain. The games teach users to problem solve, whilst ignoring distractions and things that are not relevant to the scenario playing out on screen.
Arts and Crafts
Crafting is a fantastic way for those who suffer with Dementia and Alzheimer’s to utilise their time and energy, as they are able to use their hands (helping to calm tremors), excercise their brain and regain some independence by doing an activity for themselves.
Certain colours, shapes and activities (such as knitting) may also trigger them to remember events from their past. There have been cases where patients who are despondent start to communicate and become a bit more positive about their current situation. They become active and want to participate in other activities. Busy blankets or fidget blankets are also a fantastic way to help sooth relentless fidgeting and pacing. Often, non-drug related fidgeting and restlessness occurs in those with Dementia as they feel that they need to be doing something, and when they feel this way it can result in feelings of agitation. Arts, crafts and busy blankets also help their sensory stimulation, and can have a therapeutic effect.
Make a Personalised Photo Album
A personalised photo album will not only help to stimulate an Alzheimer’s patient’s memory, it also makes a fantastic gift. Photo albums and scrap books are a brilliant way to review and reminisce of the past, and this is no exception when it comes to patients. However, this activity should be done with great care as looking back on a patient’s past may bring up upsetting memories, therefore resulting in feelings of sadness, anger or fear. If you decide to create a personalised photo album or scrapbook, then place the images in chronological order, as this will avoid confusion and make sense to your loved one. Make sure you pick out truly meaningful and happy moments, as this may trigger warm, loving memories. If your loved one gets confused or says the wrong name, avoid trying to correct them as the main aim of this activity is to connect with them. Sharing your own memories and asking open ended questions such as, “where did you go as a child?” can help to trigger memories and create a positive bond. Although you want the patient to remember their life, making sure that they know that they have congenial company and are safe should always come first. If you suspect a loved or family member is suffering with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, or are looking for support for someone with these diseases do not hesitate to get in touch. Our team of professionals are always willing to help.