What You Can Do

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Aetna Intelihealth InteliHealth Aetna Intelihealth Aetna Intelihealth
 
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Harvard Medical School
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What You Can Do

Dementia
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What You Can Do
What You Can Do
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Although there is no cure for dementia, there is still a lot that patients, health care providers, family, friends and caregivers can do to help.
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InteliHealth
2011-08-31
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InteliHealth/Harvard Medical Content
2013-02-11

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

What You Can Do
Although there is no cure for dementia, there is still a lot that patients, health care providers, family, friends and caregivers can do to help. Basic goals to keep in mind are to prevent harm, support independent living for as long as possible, maintain mental activity, and maintain physical health.
Here are a few things that you can do to make life less complicated and easier to manage:
Even if you are not experiencing cognitive change, these basic things can help improve your memory as you get older.

 

Structure your day.
Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day, and have structured meal times. Be sure to take medications at the times prescribed.

 

Keep a calendar.
Keep a calendar that you can easily refer to so that you know the day of the week and date.

 

Use a daily planner.
Writing out a daily plan is extremely beneficial and will help you avoid forgetfulness and frustration. You should schedule your day with as much detail as possible. For example, write the time and place of your appointments and with whom and why. Make a detailed list of things you need to do, including chores, errands, etc. If you are expecting visitors, note the time you expect them to arrive. By keeping a detailed plan, you can avoid any surprises (such as being startled by the door bell) and regain control of your day by knowing exactly what needs to be done.

 

Make checklists for important or complicated tasks.
Safety is one of the most important considerations for people dealing with dementia. The longer you can maintain this safety, the longer you can continue to live independently. It is common for people with dementia to forget the steps required to perform everyday tasks, such as using the stove and locking the door. Thus, you may find it useful to make notes to remind yourself of important safety measures. Leaving these reminder notes in the appropriate places will remind you to how to do things correctly and will help to keep you safe.

 

Modify your environment.
You should modify your house or apartment in such a way that it makes your life easier and less cluttered. Put things away — especially things you use every day — in designated places so that you can easily find them. Purchase equipment (for example, a microwave, one-touch dial telephone or simplified TV remote control) that is easy to operate. At night, leave a few lights on so that if you wake up you can easily get your bearings. Be especially careful to light stairs and steps.

 

Eat a healthy diet.
Because the brain needs adequate nutrition to function properly, eating well is extremely important. People who eat a heart healthy diet have a decreased risk of developing dementia and perhaps slowing the progression of symptoms if it has already started.

 

Exercise your body and mind.
Physical exercise is important to maintain continued well being. In addition, regular exercise decreases your risk of ever developing dementia and may slow down its progression. People with early dementia should also exercise their minds daily. For example, play word or number games such as crosswords, Scrabble, bingo and Monopoly. Stay mentally stimulated. Keep abreast of events that are happening around you and in the world by reading the newspaper and watching the news.

 

Maintain your social contacts.
It is important to interact with family and friends to keep you going — physically, mentally and emotionally. This is never truer than for a person with dementia. Maintaining your social contacts will provide a valuable support system for you.

 

Minimize your alcohol intake.
Alcohol will dull your senses and affect your mental performance. A high alcohol intake will damage your brain further. A patient with dementia must therefore avoid drinking an excessive amount of alcohol.

 

Stop smoking.
It is well known that cigarette smoking can cause strokes. Patients with multi-infarct dementia must stop smoking to reduce their risk of further strokes. Smoking is also a risk factor for many other serious medical conditions such as heart disease, lung cancer and bronchitis. The development of any of these conditions will cause rapid decline in a patient with dementia.

 

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Last updated June 26, 2014


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