Dec 6, 2011

Alzheimer's Care, the KISS Approach to Caregiving

I am remembering how I use to get bent out of shape when my mother would load up her pockets with change. As much as she could fit in two pockets. It did unsettle me.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Keep It Simple Stupid
The KISS approach to Alzheimer's caregiving. Keep It Simple Stupid.

Don't go getting all huffy on me after your read the above. The "stupid" in this equation refers to all of us at times including me.

It is amazing how, in many cases, the best most effective solution to a caregiver problem is often the simplest solution. The solution that is often right under your nose.

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I am remembering back to the early years when I was spinning around emotionally and psychologically like a top. Sometimes I felt like I was vibrating.

Back then, I was trying to figure out how to care effectively for a person living with Alzheimer's disease, Dotty, my mom. I was really hoping that someone would tell me what to do, and how to do it.

I learned a long time ago it is easier to do something that already exists, use an existing idea, than it is to invent something new. Besides, invention takes a long time. A lot of trial and error. On the other hand, you can take someone's invention, try it, massage it a bit to make it work best for your needs, and maybe even improve it.

So yesterday we published Mary Gazetas article about playing, How Important is Play for Alzheimer’s Patients in the Late Stages?. Beneath and around the article itself is an important lesson for all Alzheimer's caregivers I believe.

Use your eyes and ears to detect what a person living with dementia like to do. Better yet, what they might like to be doing, what will entertain them, and most importantly what they can be doing to keep them from becoming a "Zombie".

Mary noticed these behaviors in her husband,

It was common to see him rip open paper sugar packets, pour his cup of milk into another vessel or make a puddle to put his fingers into. Use his paper napkin to fold into a shape to cover a cup or a piece of uneaten food. Use his blue terry cloth bib to cover and hide things under.
From this Mary decided to start putting things in a basket that her husband liked and she thought might keep him active. A variation on a theme so to speak. Instead of messy packages of sugar, a water gun, pens, egg covers, etc. KISS.

A good idea that didn't work as well as expected at first. Didn't work well until a care aide came along and turned the basket on its side. It seems that Mary's husband couldn't see the objects in the basket when upright.

If you want to learn more you can click over and read Mary's article.

Mary didn't stop with her first idea by the way. She continued to observe and think. Using what can best be described by me as "bunkhouse logic", lead to new and better ideas.

We have lots of articles on this website that are full of insight, advice, and good ideas. They come from dementia caregivers all over the world.

A Shop for Mom is very interesting. Here is how Karen Matthews described herself before she came up with her great idea:

I confess to having been what I will call a “dream squelcher” but I’m also patting myself on the back for finally recognizing the error of my ways.

I am remembering how I use to get bent out of shape when my mother would load up her pockets with change. As much as she could fit in two pockets. It did unsettle me.

Eventually I learned that it wasn't about me. It was about what makes Dotty happy. To this day, she loads up her pockets with change. Takes it out, stacks it up, moves it from here to there. The best part, however, is that the changes continues to amaze her each and every day. "Where did it come from? How did I get it? I can take you out to dinner." All the while with a big smile on her face. KISS

Of course, I continue to believe that Harvey the Repeat Parrot is the greatest caregiver tool of them all. Harvey entertains, keeps Dotty company, and well, has taken on a persona all his own. Harvey costs about $15-20 and will give you a lot of rest if used effectively. See, Video Pete the Parrot Tip, Dotty Talks to Harvey. Or, Dotty and Harvey the Parrot Discuss Breakfast.

Wouldn't it be nice if more dementia caregivers would share their ideas and success stories with the world. Who knows, you might end up changing the world of an Alzheimer's patient or an Alzheimer's caregiver for the better.

Use the contact button in the upper right to let me know you are ready to start sharing by submitting an article of your own.

Go here to check out Pete the Repeat Parrot.

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 3,101 articles with more than 452,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

More Insight and Advice for Caregivers

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room