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Helping people with dementia stay independent

Written by Julie Potyraj

In part three of a four-part series on caregiving and dementia, Julie Potyraj, community manager for the online master of public health at The George Washington University, looks into how caregivers can help preserve the independence and morale of dementia patients.

Dementia can wreak havoc with people’s ability to do things for themselves. However, there are steps that can be taken to help dementia patients remain happy and independent in their homes during the early stages of the disease.

Physical activity: Engaging in daily physical activity, such as walking, can help people with dementia maintain strength and flexibility. This allows them to continue performing routine tasks. If walking is not possible, even light stretching exercises can help.

Socializing: By staying engaged with others and participating in shared activities (such as a hobby), people with dementia are able to stay independent for longer while also enjoying a better quality of life. Regular social interaction promotes a sense of belonging while reducing isolation.

Home adaptation: There are ways to make the home environment safer and more accessible for people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Modifications include painting doors a vivid color so that they’re easier to find and use, adding clear signs to help with navigation around the home, or installing reinforced handrails on both sides of stairways. For more, check out this Just Care post on safety at home for people with dementia.

Assistive technology: This term refers to systems or devices that support people’s ability to maintain autonomy. Assistive technology such as smartphones and tablets can help dementia patients with speech, safe walking, hearing and eyesight, and memory and cognition.

Lastly, caregivers can foster independence by basing their care on the needs of the individual—not what they think they should be doing as a caregiver. For instance, if someone is still able to prepare simple meals, they should be allowed to do so under supervision. Maintaining a positive and encouraging attitude can go a long way in helping people with dementia remain confident and capable for as long as possible.

Here’s more from Just Care:

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