On my travels through the overwhelming amounts of information online about caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, I’ve come across a little gem that I’d like to share with you. My husband is in the early stages of dementia so I am always looking for things that I can implement now that will be beneficial down the road and this is a winner!
The dry erase board! I’ve seen this simple white board installed in care facilities and homes in so many different videos and movies and often the only piece of information on it is the date. My husband rarely knows what day it is but he also isn’t interested in knowing it, he just trusts that I will let him know when the garbage needs to go to the curb and that I will get him to any appointments he needs to be at. When we check in at his appointments, they always ask who are you here to see and he always says “I don’t know” and then looks to me to answer for him. Am I doing him an injustice by not requiring him to know the who, what, when, and why details? I know one day I will have to be solely responsible for all of this information, but as I said, he’s still in the early stages of this disease and I worry that I’m not doing the right thing by allowing him to not care and rely on me for all his information.
If I were to post a calendar with all of his appointments on it I know the volume of information would confuse him so this white board I keep seeing has peaked my interest. What if I only put the information on the board that is relevant to today? This makes sense to me – this is why I see so many white boards with just the date on them. So into the depths of the Web I go in search of information about this tool. And here’s some points I learned along the way…
1. The best time to install a message board is during the beginning stages of dementia. Patients will quickly learn to use it for writing and retrieving information. If the board is placed during middle stages, people with dementia may have a more difficult time getting used to it and need multiple reminders on where to look for it.
2. People living with dementia find great comfort in knowing that the information they want can be easily found on the board.
3. If I’m going out, I can write down where I am and when I’ll be back. This will be reassuring for my husband if he knows where to look for this information.
4. In a dementia world dominated by confusion, the board becomes a soothing source of stability and helps avoid and reduce anxiety.
5. The importance of the board as a communication and memory tool increases as dementia progresses. Caregivers may not see much of its value in the beginning stages, but as dementia progresses, their ability to recall conversations, organize schedules and plan in advance, is greatly reduced.
6. When reaching the middle stages, most memory tools like calendars, planners, and apps become difficult and confusing, while the simplicity of the white board will remain effective.
7. The more severe the dementia, the more basic the information on the board should be. But it will still be the best way of providing reminders, reassurance and reducing anxiety related to the confusion caused by dementia.
So I’ve ordered my dry erase white board and am anxiously awaiting its arrival. I just need to find the best spot to put it up and then introduce my man to the new concept without hurting his ego.
I installed our whiteboard in the kitchen and within a couple of weeks my husband was looking at the board every morning while waiting for the kettle to boil. I update it every night before I go to bed so that the information is up to date when my husband wakes up.