Using “Guided choices” , one of 15 dementia care guidelines found in “Kisses for Elizabeth” can help the person with Alzheimer’s or another dementia to maintain some sense of control.
Imagine being a person with dementia. Think about how much you have lost. Your memory is gradually fading, you can no longer drive, you can’t even always find the bathroom, and you are dependent on your caregivers for almost everything. You wake up, eat, and are taken to the bathroom on someone else’s schedule. You have no control over your life and it is frightening.
What can caregivers do to help the person with dementia feel they still have some control of their lives?
Depending on the stage of dementia they are in, these individuals may still be able to make simple choices. For instance, a person in early stage Alzheimer’s should be able to select appropriate clothing to wear and may not need any help. Eventually, however, the choices become overwhelming. Caregivers will notice mismatched outfits, different colored socks, and clothing inappropriate for the season or even the time of day. When this happens caregivers often make the mistake of taking over by choosing clothes for the person to wear so another freedom is lost, another self-care skill is gone. It would be better to use what I call “guided choices”. Simply lay out two correct options and ask “Would you like to wear this… or this?”
In time, the person with dementia will no longer be able to choose between two outfits. The best way to approach this decline without hampering the ability to make choices, would be to select a single outfit and ask the person: “Would you like to wear this today?”
As caregivers we often fall into the pattern of doing things FOR the person with dementia rather than WITH them. Yet it is easy enough to foster a sense of independence by giving choices throughout the day. These can include such things as: what to wear, what to eat, choice of activities, times to wake up and go to bed. It’s clear that choices help the person with dementia feel more of a sense of control, which in turn helps to decrease frustration making the caregiving process easier and improving the quality of life for the individual.
“Kisses for Elizabeth: Common Sense Guidelines for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care” has been reviewed by the National Family Caregiver’s Association: http://nfca.typepad.com/take_care_spring_2012/book-review.html