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Dementia Activities of Daily Living: Housework

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Dementia activities of daily living can include housework. Housework is one of the few ADLs that can be turned into an enjoyable activity for the person with dementia. But it can also be used as a guide to assessing the dementia disease progression of your family member.

Changes in attention to detail in housework is a sign

If your family member always kept a well-organized and clean house, a dirty and unkempt home can be a sign of trouble. With some people, you might notice a total lack of interest towards personal and environmental hygiene even before you suspect memory loss.

Dementia damages the part of the brain that governs our need for orderliness and cleanliness, so feelings of not caring about the house or neglecting the housework can be telling.

Dementia activities of daily living may require your to offer guidance in a series of small steps

One of the reasons for neglect of housework is that the person with dementia loses the ability to independently perform a series of steps. Since most tasks involve a series of small steps, ADLs like housework can become very frustrating. You can enlist help with household chores by giving one command at a time.

Instead of telling your family member to “go fold the clothes” you could instead say, “please fold this towel”. This may require you showing how to do this task , if  they have forgotten how to complete the task.

Of course,then you may need to tell your family member  where the towel can be placed, once the folding is done. You may need to offer guidance to folding the next item.Your family member is far less likely to be overwhelmed and noncompliant if you give small,  steps to complete the task.

More on dementia activities of daily living can include housework… 

dementia activities of daily living gardenEngage them in housework that they enjoy and are familiar with

Everyone knows how to do certain tasks. Chances are that the tasks your family member is familiar with were also enjoyable, at least to a point. Take advantage of their skills and previous abilities. Don’t have them perform a task that they did not do or hated doing in younger days. I have had several patients over the years that had a love of a house hold chore that kept them busy and active for many hours. One dementia patient loved to dust. Give her a dust cloth, and she would clean everything in site. She was comforted by the repetitive motion. Another dementia patient wanted to the office everyday. He would get dressed up, and go into his home office and move papers, work on his calculator etc. It kept him busy for a few hours, until he was ready to “go home” for dinner.

If your family member enjoyed preparing meals or sweeping the floor, offer guidance in task. If they were handy with tools, supervise them in doing some light, safe chores requiring some basic tools. These activities will involve your family member and give them a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Rewards bring satisfaction

Rewards given after a task is completed are fun for both you and your family member. It is important to keep in mind that ADLs like housework are NOT goal oriented; that is, you are not rewarding the activity on how well it is executed, but rather that your family member participated in the task. For many family caregivers, allowing their family member to participate, because it takes time and patience. Something, over time, a caregiver does not have at times. Activities are the key to avoiding negative and challenging behaviors. Activities alleviate boredom, keeps a person moving and interacting. This approach may slow the cognitive decline of your family member with dementia.

For more information on various dementia activities of daily living here