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July 19, 2016

Using Imitation as Part of Your Care Efforts for a Senior with Alzheimer’s Disease

Caregiver St. Charles IL

Caregiver St. Charles IL

Being a caregiver for a senior who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease can feel like a never-ending series of challenges. Often you do not know when the next challenge will arise or what you are going to do to handle it. Equipping yourself with a wide variety of tools and approaches to handling these changing demands empowers you to give your aging parent the care that they need as they progress through the disease, enabling them to maintain as much independence as possible and live their highest quality of life.

One method of helping an elderly adult with Alzheimer’s disease maintain independence and even regain some after it seems lost is imitation. Also referred to as mimicry, repeating the actions of another as a form of caring for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease was the basis of a study performed with 23 seniors with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The study demonstrated that these seniors were still capable of following instructions and mimicking the behaviors of both a computer and a human as long as they still had good control over their motor functions.

Some ways that you can use imitation as a part of your care efforts for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease include: 

  • Non-verbal communication. Loss of verbal communication is something that virtually everyone with Alzheimer’s disease will eventually experience, and can be one of the most stressful effects of the disease. Through imitation, however, you can develop a style of non-verbal communication with your aging parent that might help them to express themselves better. For example, after speaking a word for a simple emotion, need, or command, perform a motion with your hand. Do this each time that you use the word and reinforce your parent when they repeat the gesture.
  • Brushing their teeth. Even being able to do simple personal care tasks for themselves can make your parent feel better about themselves and have positive cognitive benefits. Make brushing their teeth an activity that you do together so that they can mimic you. Go through each step of the process slowly and deliberately so that they can follow along.
  • Getting dressed. Many older adults with Alzheimer’s disease struggle with getting themselves dressed. They might not remember the mechanics of it, or they might get confused and not know which article of clothing to put on first. Help them maintain their independence in this task by having them imitate you. Get clothing that is oversized so that it will fit over your clothing. This can include a large pair of underwear, sweatpants, and a t-shirt. Demonstrate how to put on each article of clothing so that your parent can follow along with you.
  • Exercise. Even while your parent is progressing through Alzheimer’s disease it is important that they remain physically active. Help your parent keep up with regular exercising by performing moves and having them imitate you. This can be anything from lifting very light weights to marching in place to music.

If you or an aging loved one are considering in-home Caregiver Services in St. Charles IL, please contact the caring staff at Big Hearts Home Care today! 

Matthew Calcagno

Matthew is a graduate of Robert Morris College and is a U.S. Navy veteran.Matthew founded Big Hearts Home Care after over a decade at HP. Spending time volunteering at his grandparent’s senior center inspired him to make a bigger difference in the quality of care seniors receive.His grandfather whom turned 100 in 2015 is still a major inspiration to him in seeing that service is provided with a family focused touch.

It is his passion and commitment to providing quality service that has awarded Big Hearts Home Care as Provider of Choice and Employer of Choice in the Chicagoland area. He believes that being an independently owned and operated company allows him the flexibility to manage the business in a way that better serves the clients.


"Helping people is what I was meant to do; it inspires and motivates me," Calcagno said. "I also get to help veterans - assisting them in the VA pension process and providing care for several in the area. This is what I love to do."

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