“These days, lots of people feel out of control, and for good reason … When we feel out of control, the anxiety levels go up. And so it’s really important to focus on what we can do, rather than what we can’t do.” –Dr. Steven Sabat, neuropsychologist and Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Georgetown University, in a recent Being Patient BrainTalk, about caregiving during COVID-19.
Caring for family members with dementia can be overwhelming. Caregivers often juggle keeping track of their loved ones’ daily activities, medications, and doctors’ appointments — and during the COVID-19 pandemic, as routines have been upended, staying organized has become all the more challenging.
To help families keep organized, our editors selected a few of our favorite products to keep track of time and create structure.
Clocks, Watches and Calendars
“The importance of routine and familiarity to persons with dementia is profound,” writes the Alzheimer’s Project. “Daily structure can help decrease these undesired behaviors such as aggression, restlessness and agitation. As a result, the caregiver will experience less stress and be able to give better care.”
To create that structure for their loved one, caregivers need to not only keep track of time and activity, meal and medication schedules themselves — they need to find ways to share those schedules with the subject of their care.
A clock with a large display designed specifically for older adults, such as this extra-large alarm clock ($43) with a user-friendly interface that includes easily adjustable settings and clear date and time stamps can help keep everyone on the same schedule.
“My veteran dad has been living with my wife and our two youngest children for eight years. It’s only been a couple of years since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s,” wrote one customer In a 2019 Amazon review. “Lately, he had been constantly asking everyone what day or time it is, and even thinking that he was back in the 1940’s. We tried everything from buying a chalkboard to purchasing the largest calendar we could find.” Finally, after buying the clock, the customer wrote, his father “no longer wants to know what time or day it is. Dad just patiently walks back to his room to look at his clock, and he will come back to tell us what day and time it is. He definitely loves it, and [it] gives him a little more independence.”
This vibrating watch ($40) vibrates to remind individuals with dementia to take their medication. Its lock function helps prevent tampering with settings.
In such hectic, busy times, keeping track of things like keys and wallets can be challenging for anyone. For those living with dementia, misplacing objects is an even more common occurrence. Bluetooth-powered locators like the Tile Mate ($25), Oriflame’s item finder ($11) and Kimfly’s smart tracker ($20) that can be attached to frequently used — and frequently misplaced — items to help make them easier to find.
When it comes to medication, organization is key. Pill dispensers can help. Options range from a simple two-times-a-day plastic pill dispenser ($5) and portable pill boxes with alarm reminder ($14) to the Hero subscription service ($100 initial fee, $30 per month, which allows subscribers refill prescriptions on their smartphone. Hero then stores, sorts and dispenses up to a 90 days of medication supply in the accompanying Hero electronic pill dispenser.
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