If You're a Caregiver

If you're one of the millions of caregivers of an elderly patient who perhaps suffers from dementia or Alzheimer's disease, then you probably maintain a checklist of the many daily tasks necessary to care for them. When making your list, don't forget to include dental health as part of your routine.

How Caregivers Can Help

  • For as long as possible, encourage the patient to care for him/herself. It's a dignity issue.
  • When you must step in, physically demonstrate brushing and flossing, and the patient may follow. You do the remembering, one motion at a time.
  • Taking over: quietly explain what you are going to do and when. Most people respond best to a regular schedule of hygiene, and you'll want all the cooperation you can get.
  • It's easier to make a good job of it if you stand behind the wheelchair-bound patient and gently cup the head as you work; same goes for a person lying down or sitting.
  • Dentures should be removed and cleaned daily. Special caution: ill-fitting dentures will surely cause eating problems—just when the patient needs nutrition most.
  • Regular checkups are critical now, since patients may not be able to vocalize or properly explain when they are experiencing pain or other dental problems.