When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, they and everyone around them embark on a long term emotional roller coaster of fear and sadness. The patient doesn’t want to change or forget and the family doesn’t want to be forgotten or watch their loved one struggle. Hopefully, this article will offer some tips for supporting your loved one as they learn to live with this disease
Understanding What is Happening:
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that causes brain cells to die. There is no cure, though there are medications and therapies available to help manage the symptoms and slow progression. As the brain cells die, people forget things that may be basic knowledge or important information. The disease is indiscriminate in which brain cells it destroys.
Things You Can Do For Your Loved One:
Educate Yourself– Learn all that you can about the disease. New research is being done everyday and people are able to learn more and more about the disease, it’s symptoms, it’s progression, and the treatments for it all the time. Keep yourself up to date. It will help you process and understand what is happening to your loved one and what you can do to help them better.
Support the Use of Medication– if your loved one is unsure if they need medication (yet) or if they don’t know what type of medication they may need, encourage them to speak with their doctor, help them remember questions by writing them down for them, go with them to the doctor and write down the answers to their questions. Encourage the use of medication as early as possible, it can make the progression of the disease much slower than if they wait until their situation is getting bad.
Keep Things Simple:– When asking questions or giving directions, make sure to use clear, concise language and keep to the basics. Example: Instead of asking “Mom, are you feeling better today than yesterday?” just ask “How are you feeling today?”
Have a Daily Routine– Try to stick to the same routine everyday. Perhaps hang a schedule with pictures on it in home and organize their day using different pictures at the different times listed on the schedule so that they can clearly see what will happen at what day during the day.
Respect Their Emotions– Pay more attention to the person’s emotions than words. It may sound like nonsense or confusion but are they scared? worried? frustrated? Listen to the emotion behind the words and address that. If they are scared, reassure them that they are safe. If they are worried, help calm them by doing a relaxing activity or talking to them about something that will help them feel good. Do not show your frustration, anger, or sadness. If necessary, and if it’s safe to do so, leave the room for a few moments to collect yourself.
Do NOT Try To Argue or Reason With Them– As frustrating as it can be to deal with the mood swings and the outward expressions of their own frustrations and confusion, arguing will get nothing but more frustration and tension between the two of you. Just wait out the fits, protect them from harm, and again if needed, step away for a few moments.
Do Happy Things– Engaging in happy activities like listening to music, dancing, walking together, baking cookies together, joking around, etc. will help both their mood and yours. Try to create happy situations to enjoy together.
Let Them Continue to Help Out– Very few adults in this world enjoy laying around doing nothing and being waited on hand and foot. Give your loved one small, simple tasks/chores to complete so that they feel useful and needed. Ask them to load the dishwasher, help you fold some clothes or match socks, help you set the table for dinner, brush your cat/dog, read a book to your children, sweep the kitchen, etc. Feeling useful and doing things can help with the strain of feeling like a burden and it helps exercise the mind.
Make Sure They are Getting Enough Rest– Sleep is absolutely imperative for proper brain function. Allow your loved one to take a nap if they seem agitated or are forgetting more than usual. Make sure a proper bedtime is noted on the schedule or set an alarm on their phone or watch for bed time. Make sure they have a comfortable bed to sleep in and a peaceful environment that is conducive to getting a good rest.
Love Them– Even when it is difficult, remember to be compassionate and loving. Remember they are not TRYING to push all of your buttons or dance on all of your nerves. Love them through the hard times and the good times. Be there for them, visit often, and tell them you love them, even on the days when is seems to mean nothing, it will mean everything to both you and them.