Executive function is a set of mental skills that help you get things done. These skills are controlled by an area of the brain called the frontal lobe. There are days when I believe my frontal lobe has left for the beach.
Executive function helps you:
- Manage time
- Pay attention
- Switch focus
- Plan and organize
- Remember details
- Avoid saying or doing the wrong thing
- Do things based on your experience
When executive function isn’t working as it should, your behavior is less controlled. This can affect your ability to:
- Do things independently
- Maintain relationships
Types of Executive Function
Executive function can be divided into two groups:
- Organization: Gathering information and structuring it for evaluation.
- Regulation: Taking stock of your surroundings and changing behavior in response to it.
More Problems with Executive Function
Some people are just born with weak executive function. People with depression, or dementia have weaknesses in it.
An injury to the front of the brain, where the frontal lobe is, can harm your ability to stay on task. Damage from Alzheimer’s disease or strokes may also cause problems.
To improve time management:
- Create checklists and estimate how long each task will take.
- Break long assignments into chunks, and assign time frames for completing each one.
- Use calendars to keep track of appointments, vacations, chores, and activities. OH MY – this is ME.
To better manage space and keep things from getting lost:
- Have separate work area- not the kitchen or dining table or the bed.
- Organize the work space.
- Minimize clutter.
- Schedule a weekly time to clean and organize the work space.
This works for me as clutter means disorganization and that rattles my brain causing an unpleasant experience. Just ask Tom.
When you care for someone with mild Dementia/Alzheimer’s disease, you can often see us change from one day to the next. It’s common to feel overwhelmed! But if you plan day to day, you can try different ways to help us cope.
For me having Alzheimer’s is like studying for a final examination every minute of every day. Just listening to conversation or doing the laundry can be exhausting for me. Even TV can be overwhelming at times, particularly shows with a lot of noise and motion or intense emotional situations. I suffer from afternoon fatigue so much that we are learning not to do much in the afternoons except have quiet time. This time is for my writing, watching TV, knitting or pool time.
Fatigue is the leading cause of behavioral issues in dementing illness. Having an illness like Alzheimer’s disease is stressful and exhausting. I need to work hard to follow conversations, perform tasks, and simply try to remember what I should be doing. I think this is why I talk so much in social situations. I feel if I keep talking and appear social that no one will notice my disease. I experience significant fatigue even when I appear to be doing little. One of the most important habits people with dementia need is to develop the ability to take regular breaks. In this early stage I try to sit and read my magazines or put my feet up and relax in the afternoon. This helps me to have a stable mood and avoid “sundown syndrome” (a.k.a. late day confusion). My sweet Tom may disagree with this!
Most important to me:
Developing a Routine. Change creates stress for people with Alzheimer’s, since we have trouble understanding new situations. I do my best to stick to a daily routine, which is so difficult when you want to travel and be active. I try to choose activities carefully and to include rest periods – for my brain and my leg.
Functional Loss, Avoiding Change
Functional loss is the inability to accomplish tasks. It is the result of deceased “executive function” in the brain. What this means is that when trying to reach a goal, such as laundering clothes, a normal brain automatically breaks the task into steps that must be done in order to accomplish the task. In a healthy individual the more we do those tasks, the less thought it takes to do them. For people with dementia the ability to determine the order of steps needed to be done is lost – especially when the person has to think about the activity. The more the person has to think about how to do the activity, the more anxious and confused they become. If you try to coach the person through the activity, the confusion about steps will become worse and people with dementia become frustrated and frightened. They know they should be able to accomplish the activity.
People with mild Alzheimer’s still want and need to be social to keep up their stamina, self-esteem and mood. A local senior center can help with activities like exercise, games, and arts and crafts. Also consider outings with friends and family, though be sure to plan around the thought that you may need to rest or to leave early.
Controlling Environmental Stimuli.
Some dementias affect the parts of the brain that interpret what our senses learn from the environment. This means that vision, hearing, taste, touch, and smell are affected. The person still sees, hears, etc. but is progressively unable to interpret the sensory input. It is somewhat easier to understand if you imagine your eyes as a camera. They still take the picture but the brain doesn’t necessarily develop the film correctly. This results in decreased depth perception, ability to see moving objects, or not identifying common things. This is especially true of what is seen on television.
Too much demand
All too often well-meaning family and friends try to “exercise the person’s brain,” asking repeated questions about the date, names of people, and current events. This can be very upsetting as the person with early dementia is usually aware of their deficits. Continuously testing a person does not help their memory and can produce anxiety and depression. Thank goodness – no one does this to me.
Organizing the day
Remember to make time for yourself, or include the person with dementia in activities that you enjoy – for example, taking a daily walk.
A person with Alzheimer’s or other progressive dementia will eventually need a caregiver’s assistance to organize the day. Tom is already doing this. Structured and pleasant activities can often reduce agitation and improve mood. Planning activities for a person with dementia works best when you continually explore, experiment and adjust.
Before making a plan, consider:
- The person’s likes, dislikes, strengths, abilities and interests
- How the person used to structure his or her day
- What times of day the person functions best
- Ample time for meals, bathing and dressing
- Regular times for waking up and going to bed (especially helpful if the person with dementia experiences sleep issues or sundowning)
Make sure to allow for flexibility within your daily routine for spontaneous activities.
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the abilities of a person with dementia will change. With creativity, flexibility and problem solving, you’ll be able to adapt your daily routine to support these changes.
To sum it up, the best way to plan for care for someone with early Alzheimer’s is to organize a consistent routine, with generous activities in an environment with moderate noise and people and at least two rest periods per day. As your person’s dementia advances the above recommendations can be tweaked or intensified to continue providing care in the moderate stages.
So Sharron, how are you doing?
TV does not hold my interest – too loud or too much action.
My mood swings faster than you can snap your fingers.
Things I have difficulty with now has a name – executive function but some days I feel like I have ADHD.
I function better in the morning than afternoon – I just wish I could nap.
I am handing off more of my day-to-day functions to Tom.
I love the new monthly Memory Café for Dementia/Alzheimer’s folks in Williamsburg and their care partners. It is very casual and gives me time to catch up, gossip, laugh and cry – thank you Ladies for doing this.
May has been a sad month as a dear friend of mine lost her Mother to dementia and a few weeks later her brother died unexpectedly. Tom’s Aunt Anne passed away in the middle of May. I’ve been doing a lot more praying.
On a good note our Granddaughter, Lexi, graduated from ODU – what a proud day.
Our house is for sale and while I try not to get stressed out it just happens. We want to move to an area that is more transportation friendly for Tom. His independence is very important to me.
I lost my love for peanut butter and all foods taste salty. I used to LOVE both.
The 2016 Williamsburg Walk to End Alzheimer’s® is on Oct 22 at Matthew Whaley Elementary School. This will be my 3rd walk.
In 2015 our chapter (Southeastern Virginia) raised over $735,000 through 6 chapter-hosted Walk events. My wonderful team – The Villas of Five Forks – raised over $4500 and we placed 5th in Williamsburg – right below all the LARGE corporate teams. WE ROCK!! My aim is HIGH for 2016. I’m sure it will involve a new car!! Get those $20’s out and ready!
I am looking for new items to auction at several events. We need store gift cards (grocery stores would be nice) or any new store items. Gift baskets are always a hit. If you’re in the know that would be great for Team Villa.
If you own a business and are willing to help sponsor Team Villa please let me hear from you.
If you see something you like click on the picture to see if it’s SOLD or to get the price. Everything is reduced and 100% of all sales will go to my Villas team for this years walk.
If you do not have Facebook I still have my old Beach Babes Jewelry Blog and you might see something special there.
Just email if you see something you like and I’ll let you know if it’s available.
Your love and support mean so much to me – Thank You!