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Would like to hear other people's suggestions about how to deal with problems they have come across while caring for somone with dementia. My MIL has lived with us for over two years now and her Alzheimer's is progressing. It seems like hygiene is a hot topic for people with dementia. My MIL has a habit of taking off her Depend in the bedroom and then will squeeze it in a ball and hide it someone in her room or closet. It does not matter we put a trash can with a sign right in her room. I was afraid our carpeting would not take many more steam cleanings (thank you to our son for the wonderful Christmas gift of a steamer - has been a lifesaver). Finally, I figured out that she will not take off her pjs if she cannot put her robe on so every night, I put her robe in her bathroom and simple, bold signs in the bathroom. She had starting getting up at 6 or 7 and jumping right in the shower (yes, I am grateful she still showers), but since I often will work until 2 or 3 in the morning, the 6 or 7 was not giving me much sleep. We bought a clock that sticks to the bathroom mirror and I have a sign next to it that boldly says "Do not take a shower until after 9 (or 8 - depending on when we need to be up) - so please GO BACK TO SLEEP." The last part was important as she would just go back in her room and get dressed. I also put a sign right on the shower curtain she has to open that says "GO BACK TO SLEEP". Also, since she had started wearing 2 pairs of underwear UNDER her Depends which defeats the purpose and she ended up throwing at least 40 pairs away (I am not exaggerating), the sign in her drawer says - no more underpants - just wear Depend. Believe it or not, these signs do help. Of course nothing works all the time - but even half the time is better than none.

Something I would love to hear ideas about is tissues, or as my husband calls them snot rags. My MIL keeps at least 6 in each pocket and we catch her wiping the table, the mirror, the sink, etc. with them. Of course, I wipe everything down with Clorox wipes constantly, but any ideas how to curb that habit would be greatly appreciated.

Another suggestion her physical therapist gave us was to have "inside shoes" for her. Our family has always taken off their shoes in the house, but house slippers no not give elderly people the stability they need so we bought a sturdy pair of shoes that she wears only in the house. Of couse, we go round and round at times when we are going out as she insists she has her shoes on, but other times, she gladly switches to her outside shoes. It is amazing that she truly does appear to have better stability when walking in the house.

Looking forward to hearing others ideas and suggestions for problems they encounter every day.

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Clare, thanks for the example of his mind sort of has a period of confusion after doing a task. I have Mother do little tasks like unload the dishwasher and folding the laundry. The other night I was in the hand towel drawer and found 3 undershirts and wash clothes. I just couldn't figure it. Thanks, that helped. Guess she knew how to fold all the stuff but then got confused on where some of the things went, but she got some of the putting away correct, so still a good sign. But the bad thing is, she always says how she wants to do it because she can. She doesn't realize she does things wrong some times. So, I'll continue to let her fold the laundry and just hope I find it wherever she puts it...lol.

However, because her macular degeneration is so advanced she has trouble discerning shapes and colors, so the coins and beads would be too hard. But I'm sure I can come up with something. Thanks to all.
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One more thing, we opted not to do daycare as my dad would never remember being there before and every time we took him would be like the first time he was there. He doesn't even remember that he woke up at our house in the morning and asks how he got there and when he's going home multiple times a day! We found that any trip out of the house interrupts the routine and causes anxiety and confusion so we decided that we (he and us!) just couldn't take the stress of it. Keeping him home and in a consistent routine is what has worked best for us. He was never much of a socializer anyway, never liked to play cards, etc. so I was afraid it would irritate him that we were trying to get him to go. I know that it can be very beneficial for some.... but we just didn't want to upset the apple cart so we decided against it.
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Elderadvocate, it sounds like we are going through a lot of the same things with my dad. He will go through a string of days where the confusion is so bad that we are just sure he is transitioning to the next phase and then, out of nowhere, he makes a brief return to us. On good days, he folds towels, dusts and wipes the counters. On slow days there is no way he could do any of those things.

Your idea to have your mom sort beads is a good one. We used to have my dad sort buttons and coins. The buttons got to be too much for him because he obsessed about the different shades of yellow or red and would get really frustrated. He still sorts coins and seems to enjoy it. I have used this as a way to gauge the progression of his disease. A year ago, he could sort, stack and count them. About 6 months ago, he lost the ability to count them. And most recently, he has begun mixing up the nickels and the quarters, and the stacks are not consistent. Since we don't really need the coins counted, this is no big deal. We thank him for his help and always praise the great job he's done. Then we take the sorted coins in the other room and mix them up in a jar they are ready for the next time. :-) We also have taken towels out of the linen closet and put them in a laundry basket for him to fold! Sometimes multiple times in the same day.

One thing we have noticed, though, is when he does tasks that require a lot of concentration like sorting things, he seems to have a period of confusion afterward. It's almost like he's worked his brain so hard that he can't slow it down. The question and answer sessions that follow can be exhausting for all of us. So we try to do short jobs that last around 15-20 minutes. Just enough to keep him occupied but not enough to cause problems later.

As for the signs, I too know that this won't last forever but it seems to be working for now. I have read and heard that at some point they forget how to read but Rebecca's thoughts that they are reading but no longer able to comprehend makes a lot of sense to me.
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Well, I did think about the day care place, but know Mother would absolutely hate it. I have instead hired a woman to come in 3 times a week to give me a break. The thing with Mother is, she loves her home, doesn't like to go many places and has never wondered or fallen or anything -- never did want to travel or go that may places. She just wants to be home. The person that comes does walk with her, play cards and makes her listen to special music for Alzheimers/dementia patients. She is always calm and thank goodness, not incontinent. If it gets worse, then we'll consider the day care. The director did say it takes most people at least 3 or 4 visits for them to accept being there. I would not feel guilty about leaving her. I just know how much she enjoys her home.

I know what you mean about the reading. Mother used to love her books on tape and listen to them almost none stop. But she hasn't used them in months and I'm sure it's because she can't remember the story line or where she was when she stopped listening when she turned it off. How awful for them. And all we can do is try.

So, for now things are working. I'm amazed, but they are. And yes, if I didn't have this support group, my friends would be a little burned out on my venting. Thanks and good luck.
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Thank you both for your info. It definitely is better to laugh than cry. I know the signs may not work for long as Mom's disease seems to be progressing again. I swear it is crazy- seems to worsen and then she hits a plateau and bam! - down the slope we go again. I do think she has a UTI again so off to the doctor again tomorrow - something I forgot to mention above - a quick change in behavior can often signal a UTI. The nurse that told us this was an angel as 9 out of 10 times it has been true. As far as the Clorox wipes - you hit the nail on the head - we tried that and immediately they go to her nose so I try to just follow behind. The one saving grace is she loves to fold laundry and our laundry room is in direct view of the kitchen so i often have her fold laundry or match socks while I clean up after meals. That is when is in a good frame of mind - there are days, she confuses the washer and dryer so I have to bring a basket of clothes of towels (many of my towels are dried several times to have "more laundry") to her on the couch so she can do it there. I saw one suggestion somewhere to get a big bunch of large colored beads and dump them in a box and then give the person a divided box and ask them to help you out by sorting them. That is on my list to get from Michaels on my next trip.

I would definitely encourage you not to give up on some kind of daycare, Rebecca. Mom did not care for her daylight program at first, but it did not help that her daughter (who lives 800 miles away) kept saying to her "I thought you did not like it there" every time Mom would mention it. She has truly adjusted to it now and actually looks forward to going. It took us at least a good two months of going twice a week, before it became a habit and she allowed herself to enjoy it. I think many of our loved ones just dig in their heels and are determined not to like it. It was hard because my MIL does not have any hobbies and never did. She reads but is at the point, she can read the same page for 2 hours and not remember one thing. Do not feel guilty about leaving your mom - it is like a child with daycare - they WILL adjust. We could not do the senior center as Mom would have run away from there. She does not leave the house or wander out (yet) but has run away from an Assisted Living her daughter had put her in down in Florida so we know the tendency is there. Good luck to all - just heariing others stories and suggestions really helps! I don't know what we would do without our regular Alzheimer's support group.
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I don't think I can help you on the depends problem or lots of your post, but I can tell you a little about the signs and why they don't work sometimes. Sorry, if I read your post wrong, I'm really tired, had some rum and have one more thing to wait to doing before going to bed. So, please bear with me.

I'm sorry, what I'm about to say is not necessarily helpful, but may give you some insight. I was doing the same thing with signs all over the place. First I bought these electronic medicine boxes that flash and beep to remind people to take their meds -- not cheap and turned out to be waste of money. I even had signs -- 2 of them -- one said: when this flashes and beeps, do what it says on the card in front of the box. Then the one in front of the box gave very explicit directions. Nothing worked. So, I gave up on the electronic medicine boxes and just changed medicine times.

However, she is supposed to have a Boost and vegetable juice when she gets up, so there is something on her stomach before her morning meds. Plus she's supposed to drink a Boost before going to bed. So, in the bedroom at the light switch, I had a sign, "Before you go to bed....!" On the bathroom mirror, there was a sign, "When you get up...."

Well, it worked a little in the beginning, but now it never ever works. The other week, I took her to a senior center so see if she'd like it -- no, definitely not. However, while there I did speak to the head of the agency (it's a county agency). They have a day care for more advanced people. I explained how I couldn't understand why she'd read the signs, understand what they said, but yet do nothing.

Well, she explained to me, while she can read the sign and know what it says, her mind no longer knows how to process what she read or what do to. Ever since that conversation, I have been more accepting and less frustrated. I was getting angry at myself for not knowing how to get her to do it and I was getting frustrated with her for not doing what she read. But It isn't her fault.

So, in closing, if she is doing what the signs say sometimes, great. But be warned, it may progress to where she never does it. Sorry, I know that doesn't help, but maybe it will help you understand when it gets to that point. I have taken down all the signs and just somehow get it all accomplished every day -- I don't know how sometimes, but I do, guess my guardian angel helps me a lot. Good luck and hugs!
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It sounds like you are doing a great job trying to adapt your home to fit your MIL's needs. We've tried to do the same since my dad came to live with us a little over a year ago. We have made signs for our house too, to identify the rooms down the hallway and a couple of "DO NOT ENTER" for the doors to the basement and garage. We put a baby monitor in the living room so we can hear him if he wanders the house in the middle of the night. We found some fairly inexpensive door alarms at Lowe's and have put them on the doors leading outside. He hasn't tried to wander, but you never know.

My dad's "snot rag" is his hanky. He blows his nose in it and then uses it to clean his glasses. Gross!!! We try to stop him before he gets it wrapped around those glasses, but aren't always successful. Of course, this makes the glasses worse than they were, so we persuade him to put the hanky back in his pocket, squirt some eyeglass cleaner on the lens' and put a soft cloth in his hand. He will then clean those glasses until they are sparkling!

I don't know if this will help your MIL stop wiping everything with her tissues, but if she likes to wipe the counters, table, etc., try giving her the Clorox wipes to use. Of course, then you'll have to make sure she doesn't put them in her pocket with the tissues and she'll have to wash her hands but at least she'd actually be cleaning. My dad really enjoys wiping the table after supper. And that keeps him busy while I get the kitchen cleaned up. I sometimes have to go back over it but he likes to help and I know what he's doing!

I don't have any advice about the Depends. We aren't there yet. But my dad has lots of little accidents and I am constantly buying new underwear for him, so I can sympathize. I don't want my dad to wear stained underwear and I don't think we are to the point of needing adult diapers so I just deal with it. Not sure how we're going to make the switch to Depends...I suppose when we get there, we'll figure it out.

My dad insists on having shoes on every waking hour and the inside/outside shoes are a great idea. My dad doesn't go out much, so it's not like his shoes are dirty but he is definitely wearing out the carpet directly in front of his chair. Since we aren't doing much entertaining right now, it doesn't really bother me. Just something else we'll have to replace when this journey is over.

Keep up the good work. I don't think you can possibly anticipate every change and every person with AD is different so no one can tell you what to expect. It is like living in a psych ward sometimes! We just try to take it as it comes. And laugh. It sure beats crying!
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