Ric Cavanagh - Certified Alzheimer’s Homecare Trainer

Each week we will be featuring a question and answer with our Director of Staff Development, Ric Cavanagh, M.S.W., about Alzheimer’s disease and what to do when your elderly parent is diagnosed. Keep an eye out every Tuesday for Ric’s Alzheimer’s Q&A.

Have a question for Ric? Visit our “Contact Us” page to submit your question and Ric’s response will be posted on the EasyLiving blog.

Q: How do you provide assistance with everyday activities or personal hygiene care without embarrassing an elderly person with Alzheimer’s?

A: This can be challenging. Progress slowly and calmly when discussing getting help.  Remember that you are introducing a stranger into the comfortable and protected environment of their home.

Also remember that your loved one will gradually begin to forget things that just happened (i.e. what they had for breakfast, when they last took a shower, etc.).  The brain with Alzheimer’s literally stops encoding these messages.  They will get increasingly confused; they will deny that they haven’t taken a shower in over a week.

If they live in a retirement community or in their own neighborhood of many years, they often don’t want others to know that they need help. This embarrasses them.

Here are a few helpful suggestions:

  • Introduce the idea of outside help slowly over time.
  • Even if you have to tell a little fib, have the bill for services sent to someone other than Mom or Dad (to stop their complaint that they can’t afford to pay for the help).
  • Keep a calendar of activities and have your parents follow this on a daily basis.  Write down when they took a shower, went to the doctor, etc.  It will help them remember.  It will also give you the chance to point out that the last time they took a shower was last week.
  • Suggest that the caregivers who visit your relative wear comfortable, casual clothes rather than scrubs so that it is not as obvious that they are providing help to your relative.
  • Coordinate a visit with your loved one’s doctor and ask the doctor to tell them that he is ordering help with bathing, meal preparation, etc. Such an order is not actually required but some older people will accept help if their doctor orders them to have it.