Bob DeMarco Alzheimer's Reading Room

Friday, November 2, 2012

Are You Giving Too Much Help for the Person with Alzheimer’s


Continuing to use the skills that remain will help the person to feel like they have a purpose and will help to slow their rate of cognitive decline.

By Monica Heltemes
Alzheimer's Reading Room


Are You Giving Too Much Help for the Person with Alzheimer’s
As a caregiver, you see the day to day struggles the person with dementia has. It may be difficulty remembering things, trouble finding the right words, getting lost, or making a mistake in a task.

Most caregivers find this troubling, as they do not like to watch the person struggle. So they take over. They start to do things for the person, start to talk for the person, and start to avoid certain situations or activities.

In some situations, this is the right thing to do. If the person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia has difficulty finding the right words and the caregiver know what he is trying to say, then it is helpful for the caregiver to supply the missing words.

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Some activities become dangerous for the person with dementia to do alone, so it is appropriate that the caregiver would stop this activity or do it for the person instead. Examples include driving, cooking on the stove alone, and use of power tools.

But what if sometimes, the caregiver unknowingly starts to do too much for the person with dementia?

For example, a caregiver who alone does all parts of making dinner - setting the table, putting out napkins, pouring drinks, preparing and cooking the meal, clearing the table – even though the mother with dementia used to be a fantastic cook and hostess.

Is this mother being helped in this situation or is she being harmed?

The harm would be something called excess disability. This means that there is more disability occurring that can be contributed directly to the disease itself.

In this example above, perhaps the mother could set out the napkins, after she was given them. Or maybe she could mash the cooked potatoes.

In essence, she could use the skills that still DO remain. Just because she may not be able to do the full task as she did before, this does not mean that the entire task needs to be done for her.

With a bit of thought, the person with dementia can still stay involved with doing things – just in a modified fashion.

Continuing to use the skills that remain will help the person to feel like they have a purpose and will help to slow their rate of cognitive decline.



Monica Heltemes is a practicing occupational therapist and owner of MindStart™. MindStart designs hobby-style items, such as games and puzzles, specifically for persons with memory loss. They keep persons with dementia active, while giving support to caregivers, and are quick and easy to use. Visit MindStart (Activities for Persons with Memory Loss) to learn more.


Original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room