Connecting the Dots: Coping with Alzheimer's Disease
When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, the entire family feels the impact of memory loss and decline. Homewatch CareGivers offers advice for navigating your changing relationship with the affected family member.
Advice for Family Members
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive and fatal brain disease, causing a series of changes in behavior, memory and function. It is often referred to as a "family disease," due to its overwhelming effects on the person diagnosed, as well as their loved ones. Although the journey will inevitably be challenging, there are ways to plan for and cope with all of the changes and the decline of your loved one — creating a dementia home care
plan that benefits everyone involved.
Act, Rather than React
Tissue damage can cause an individual with Alzheimer's to have outbursts of anger, suspicion, paranoia, and hallucinations. These outbursts often center on a fixation, leading to irrational accusations and fears. To maintain a positive relationship with your memory-impaired loved one when delusions and hallucinations are cause for concern, it's important for family care givers to act instead of reacting.
Arguing, disagreeing, even agreeing with untrue claims made by Alzheimer's patients isn't fair to them or you. Let your loved one know that you heard them, then redirect the conversation to another (positive) topic or activity. "I know you're concerned that the neighbor will steal your things, mom. Now, let me help you get showered." According to Ann Marie Doetterl, a Homewatch CareGivers Pathways to Memory
™ specialist, a good mantra to have is: "Don't sweat the small stuff." If what your loved one has said or done isn't harmful, let it go.
Connect with Positive Communication
As Alzheimer's disease progresses, communication and relationships become increasingly difficult. However, those with Alzheimer’s deserve to be treated like adults with dignity. "Use only positive communication when speaking with the memory impaired" said Doetterl. "Positive communication means responding to your loved one by avoiding words like 'no, don't, can't, shouldn't, not or why.' When a person with memory impairment is corrected all the time, it increases anxiety, decreases self-esteem, and causes embarrassment, fear and anger.
Caregivers can use distraction and validate their loved one's feelings, rather than continually correcting faulty memory." Dotteral provides the following example: Your husband is putting a dirty cup in the pantry instead of the dishwasher. A negative response would be: "No Frank! The cup doesn't go there — it's dirty — put it in the dishwasher." A positive response would be: "Thank you for helping me Frank. Will you please wipe the table and I'll take care of the dishes?". Speak slowly, clearly and simply — maintaining a relaxed, friendly demeanor and good eye contact. Be aware of your facial expressions and body language, as well as picking up on their non-verbal cues, which may very well become the best means of understanding each other as Alzheimer's disease progresses.
Embrace the Good
As Alzheimer's progresses, memories begin to disintegrate, including names and special dates. With the loss of memories comes a lack of cognitive ability needed to express emotions, leaving those in late stages of Alzheimer's mostly (if not completely) unable to convey any feelings. Spending time remembering who your loved one once was — before Alzheimer's disease — is imperative to coping. It's important to remember the good, and hold onto those memories in the wake of stress, frustration, sadness and loss.
It's also great to trigger your loved one's memories and personality by sharing old photos, story telling, and incorporating their former passions into adapted activities. If your spouse loved to cook, invite him or her to set the table while you prepare the meal. If your father seems confused as to whom your mother is, try casually reminiscing over a cup of tea and an old family photo. Focusing on the positive, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the negative, will not only help you cope with the changes, but also encourage your loved one to feel loved, feel respected — to be at peace.
For more information about Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care:
Download the Homewatch CareGivers Guide to Living With Dementia
Call for a free Pathways to Memory
™ evaluation. Offered exclusively by Homewatch CareGivers, Pathways to Memory features one-on-one interaction to create meaningful moments in a failure-free environment. All Pathways to Memory services are provided by specially trained individuals that bring patience and compassion to an emotionally charged family dynamic.
More About Homewatch CareGivers
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, providing home care for all ages
. We invite you to visit www.homewatchcaregivers.com
, where you can read articles related to home health, Dementia Care Tips
and home care news
; or download PDF home care resources
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