When my children were little, I would ask them to help me with the mundane but necessary tasks that came with everyday living.
“Please do the dishes.”
“Pick up your toys.”
“Don’t forget to make your bed.”
At the time, their dimpled, sometimes dirty, and pudgy little hands were far less equipped for completing the tasks than my over-30-year-old, experienced ones. Though these were imperative teaching moments — hands-on study of the importance of hard work and responsibility — my inner frustration accompanied their education. What would take me five minutes (really, only five) they would drag out, as if on purpose, to 10, 20, 30 minutes or longer.
It would have been easier if I’d just done it myself.
Caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s disease can be a similar experience. He or she likely has not only learned how to do hard work but also has been working hard for decades. Everyday chores are typically second nature, at least in the early stages of the disease. But while muscle memory may take over, cerebral confusion tends to get in the way.
Instead of the warm suds once used to douse dishes in, your loved one may forget to use even a little soap. Cabinets become catalysts of confusion, as this isn’t the house in which they grew up, though your loved one could’ve sworn they’re in that house at that very moment. As a result, you find mugs in the drawer under the stove, food particles left on the silverware, and chips in your favorite china. Really, it would’ve been easier if you’d just done it yourself.
Chores build self-esteem.
Believe it or not, allowing your loved ones with Alzheimer’s to partake in the mundane chores of the day-to-day can help them remember they are valued, appreciated, and respected. Ideally, they would know that already, but when most of the day is spent in a chair being waited on hand and foot, or pushed in a wheelchair because walking long distances has become a challenge, it can be easy to feel like a burden.
Your loved one may not be able to pick up the kids from school — indeed they may not remember that the kids are in school at all — but if they want to wash the dishes, maybe you should let them. It might mean you have to go back in secret to rearrange the mugs, rewash the cutlery, or save the fine china for only the most special occasions. However, if letting them wash the dishes encourages a continued sense of purpose and dignity in a person who has already had to give up a wealth of independence, then I can assure you, it’s worth it.
Easier, yes. But kinder?
Yes, it would be easier to do chores yourself, but weighing their confidence against your time and mugs and forks and china, I think you’ll find that the scales are still tipped in favor of boosting their self-worth.
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s Disease.
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