Independence and Memory Loss (1)

Independence and Memory Loss

Summer is here, and come July, we ready ourselves to celebrate Independence Day. Every year on July 4th our country commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Alzheimer’s disease threatens the independence of many. Not only does it threaten the autonomy and independence of the one diagnosed, but it also demands increasing interdependence among family caregivers as they strive to care for and protect their loved one.

For many people with Alzheimer’s, an eventual loss of independence is inevitable. The effects of the disease, which include memory loss, confusion, difficulty communicating, and emotional disturbances, make it difficult for people suffering from the disease to care for themselves. Despite the need for help from caregivers or loved ones, people with Alzheimer’s greatly benefit from maintaining a degree of independence, especially in the early stages of the disease.

Remaining active and engaged with daily life is essential to preserving a sense of meaning and self-worth among Alzheimer’s sufferers. A sudden transition from complete independence to complete dependency can lead to depression and worsen symptoms of the disease. Promoting independence for as long as possible creates a gradual transition from independent living to dependence on caregivers. Making sure to involve people with Alzheimer’s in daily life to the extent that their condition allows is a healthy way to foster a personal sense of meaning and maintain a good quality of life.

Here are some ways you can promote independence for your loved one:

  • Do things together – try to do things with your loved one rather than for them when offering assistance.
  • Focus on things your loved one can do, rather than those they can’t.
  • Offer help in a supportive way.
  • Try to be patient, allowing plenty of time for tasks and offering reassurance, praise, and encouragement.
  • Break down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Try to adapt tasks to take account of particular difficulties. If your loved one is happy, keep doing the things they enjoy – just differently. Focus more on the process rather than the completion of a task.

At Kemper House, we strive to support residents’ remaining abilities for as long as possible, to encourage independence in areas where individuals can still maintain control. This starts first thing in the morning with self-care and continues into mealtimes, activities, etc. Encouraging independence is one of our best bets for maintaining dignity and self-worth among our residents.

-Jenny Kemper

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