As we age, we all strive to stay independent. This is no different for a person with dementia. Our ability to keep our independence encourages dignity, self-worth, freedom, and so much more. Many people think that once a person is diagnosed with dementia they lose their independence. However, this is not always the case. As caregivers we should strive to keep those with dementia as independent as possible. By doing so, we can help the person with dementia live a better quality of life. One way to encourage independence is to focus on what they can still do and provide just enough support for them to be successful. This reinforces those skills – whether that is making their bed or brushing their teeth. Through muscle memory and cognitive triggers, we can stimulate the brain and help the person stay more independent. There is a clear link between brain health and independence.
The person with dementia may need some more guidance and support as their condition declines, but if we focus on the person before the disease (aka the person-centered model) we can find ways to help your loved one stay independent through environmental modifications, adaptive technologies, and so much more. Research suggests that if we allow the resident more autonomy to keep doing the things they can, it helps a person with dementia stay independent. Some research indicates that many signs and symptoms of dementia may be lessened by helping the person with dementia stay as self-sufficient as possible throughout the disease.
Ways to help someone stay independent with dementia:
- Only provide help when it is needed and resist the urge to complete tasks for someone with dementia. Our brains have the ability to figure things out and this does not change – even with a memory loss.
- Put interventions in place such a as limiting the number of options they are given choose from. Such as providing only two choices from a restaurant menu verses presenting the entire menu which may be over whelming. Another example would be limiting the amount of clothes in your loved one’s closet at one time to avoid too many choices but still offer alternatives options.
- Stay physically fit. Several researchers indicate that the more physically fit a person is, the longer they can remain independent. Short bursts of exercise have been proven to be more beneficial than extended periods of exertion.
- Use color contrast to support their ability to be successful. An example of this is that an all-white room may look circular to a person with dementia. Providing objects or color to the room will heighten depth perception and trigger spatial memory.
Our research-based design at CERTUS Premier Memory Care Living communities are just one of our many differentiators.
By Joshua Freitas, M.Ed., BC-DEd, CAEd; Vice President of Program Development & Theodosia Heiserman, DP-NC; Resident Engagement Director
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