Ideas to help in advanced stage dementia for seniors; by Francy Dickinson
Summertime can be both uplifting and totally draining for seniors that are going through dementia. So to help you, as the caregiver, I have some ideas I have found work well.
- Heat is not a friend to a senior. Usually as we age we tend to be colder and when you add medications that can change the brain; seniors can be chilled all the time. Make sure the senior wears a light sweater or jacket. Do not turn up the heat in the summer, it is not good for them to sit in a room and get their bodies overheated and dehydrated. Check on them. You do not have to turn on the air conditioner, but using a fan is a must. Make sure the fan is safely put in a place the senior will not knock it down. If they go outside SPF is a must, their skin is very sensitive and needs protection. I like to make sure man or woman that they have a hat and a pair of sunglasses that fit over their regular glasses.
- Walking out the door with a walker or behind the senior’s wheel chair is a great idea. A daily walk is so good for the senior. Parkinson’s seniors especially need as much exercise as possible. So if you can get your senior out the door and sitting on the front porch or back yard, have them do some foot circles and point and flex. Ask them to bend their legs and then stretch them out while they sit and get them to move their arms around a bit. That time in the sunshine, the fresh air and the movement will tire them out and help them have a good afternoon nap. It pays off.
- I would always buy flowers for pots and then have George sit at a table and help me plant them in the pots. It was a simple task, but then he had an attachment to the pots of flowers on the deck and I would be surprised how he remembered his potting experience.
- Walking the dog with the senior in their wheelchair is a very important outing. The senior tends to go farther with the dog in tow, then they do when you are just trying to get them out the door and down the street for a change of pace.
- Always talk to the dementia senior as if they are full of mind. Just talk to them about the summer holidays and let them know the day and time of year. Keeping them involved even when they seem to be so far away is very important. I always had a big calendar with birthdays, events, appointments and holidays on it in the kitchen. Each day we would start by looking at the day…he would often tell me a story about something he remembered from a childhood summer, I always let him talk…any memory is a treasure.
- Getting seniors new clothes may seem silly….but summertime, should mean brighter and lighter clothes. A new pair of pants and a couple of new tops, they are refreshing for us all…don’t let the senior get lost in old clothes. If they are in the care facility remember to put their name on the clothes so they get them back to wear, not lost in the may lay of washing in facilities. I would bring their warm clothes home and take summer clothes over to them. So there was no worry about them wearing only one thing over and over.
- Old fashioned root beer floats…going out for a dipped soft cone, or having strawberry shortcake are memories that we all have and food often deeply in-beds in the senior’s brain. So think of that when you go and visit next time….take a treat.
- Feet are often ignored for seniors…get a good soaking foot tub and have your senior do foot soaks when you visit. Take them out to a nail parlor or senior center once a month for toe nail cutting. The foot soak is very relaxing, add 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1/4 cup Epson salt, 1/4 cup of baking soda and a hit of bubble bath in the hot soaking water. Let them soak for 20 minutes and then dry the feet well and put on clean socks. Not only does this calm them, but their feet feel fresh, if you like…put on some nice skin moisturizer and let them feel good. Its a great treat. (always have them go to the toilet before the soak…or the hot water will cause them to want to go when you have gotten them settled in the soak)
- There is no reason not to take your senior to a family summer gathering…just know you will only stay an hour and then bring them home. Keep them in a quiet area out of the sun and let others come and visit them, not the senior roaming around. If you stay longer have a special quiet room they can go and rest in, after a hour. If you keep a dementia senior outside and around family confusion…you will bring home a senior that will be taking a huge leap back in their ability to recover. Don’t set your senior up for failure.
- A quiet drive to the local park, water front park, lake, or nice park in the summer is really perfect. Late afternoon or early evening, you drive till you can park and let the senior just absorb the beauty. They often like to go back to their old neighborhood…so you might want to visit their childhood home, or early marriage neighborhood. Let them see and feel things…ask them questions about the old days…just let them talk. A good rule is 45 minutes is the safe time to enjoy an event and then move on. A short, sweet time out of their day…to change their mind-set so they can go back home and sleep well.
Thank you, for all you are doing. All of us that share care giving understand the many ups and downs of your life. I wish you strength and patience. Blessings, francy