Behaviors for the Caregiver
By Elisabeth A Hinman-Smith M.S.W. & Lisa P. Gwyther M.S.W.
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"My wife can't handle the cooking anymore. She also doesn't work on her needlepoint. She's idle so much of the day, but I don't know what to give her to do."
* Do not try to teach new skills or "re-train" a forgotten hobby. Some long- term memory is better preserved than short-term memory. Try to build on well-learned and preserved abilities. Some people, for example, can sing or play an instrument that they learned long ago.
* Look for activities that last for no longer than half an hour. The person's attention span is much shorter than normal.
* Try activities that are familiar. Simple, repetitive tasks are ideal especially if they do not require much decision making. Examples include sweeping, folding clothes, or stuffing envelopes.
* Break tasks down into component steps if necessary. For example, "set the table" can be broken down into placemats, plates, napkins, silverware and glasses.
* Help get the person started by verbally guiding him or her or demonstrating the task.
* Try to keep activities on an adult level. All the person to continue doing as much as they can. Household or yard work helps them feel like they are contributing to the household.
* Adjust your expectation to fit remaining abilities. The task may not be done as well as it would have if you had done it, but remember the importance to the person's self esteem.
* Be patient and flexible. Give the person a little more time to do things. Be on the outlook for how to adapt tasks so they can participate.
* Watch for frustration. If the person becomes upset or agitated, step in to help or distract with another, pleasurable activity, break or snack. Remember, outings and passive entertainment can be quite successful.
(c) copyright 1996
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