This week's Miles for Memories Moment is courtesy of volunteer Connie Skidmore.

When we say “coping skills” for the person with early stage Alzheimer’s or other dementia, are we talking about coping skills for the patient or the caregiver?

Both, actually.  Many patients in the early stages of dementia will likely come up with coping skills of their own, in order to minimize or try to hide the difficulties they are experiencing.  They might say they were never told about an upcoming appointment or event, or they might even say that they remember things they couldn’t possibly know about because they don’t want someone to think they’ve forgotten.  With patience and understanding, the patient and the caregiver can work together to come up with some coping skills that can maybe make things less stressful for everyone.  For instance:

Focus on what needs to be done today – writing notes on the calendar or a bulletin board will allow everyone to remember doctor’s appointments or upcoming events.

Developing a daily routine – It’s good to have a schedule for the everyday things – eating, taking medications, showering, etc.  and if you add in a time each morning where you discuss the events for the rest of the day, you might create a better opportunity for success and help eliminate frustrations.   You might also schedule in time to do a little exercise like take a short walk, work in the garden, go to the grocery store.

Recognize the triggers that cause stress – If you find that crowds, excessive noise or feeling rushed tend to cause anxiety you will certainly want to stay away from football games and carnivals!

If you are the caregiver – remind your loved one that it’s OK to ask for help and that it’s not uncommon to have to try different strategies to achieve a goal.  Discuss what could be done differently and don’t be afraid to make adjustments in plans and in goals.   Remember, family, friends, pets, your own inner strength are all sources to help you get through the hard times even as you experience daily challenges or setbacks.

Miles for Memories is creating solutions for those impacted by dementia in Calhoun County through movement, programming and research.