Before June Fuerst was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, her husband saw her so humiliated in a social situation that he took steps to ensure that it never happened again.
“We were at a party and she kept repeating herself,” Frank Fuerst, 80, recalled. “One guy thought he was being funny and imitated her. She was so embarrassed that she wanted to leave, and we did.”
Mr. Fuerst, the author of “Alzheimer’s Care with Dignity,” said that things have changed since then in terms of society’s knowledge and understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. “If it were to happen today, I would just walk over and say, ‘She has Alzheimer’s,” he said.
Mr. Fuerst, who was his wife’s in home caregiver for 17 years, decided to be proactive and told family, friends and professional colleagues about his wife’s illness so that people would not ridicule her if she behaved unusually. It also helped that they lived in a small community and were a well-known couple because even the local grocery store clerks would merely smile when Mrs. Fuerst would walk out of the market and forget to pay for her groceries. “These were easy things to deal with,” Mr. Fuerst said.
Essentially what Mr. Fuerst was doing was treating his wife with respect. This is precisely what is recommended in the Homewatch CareGiver’s Guide to Living with Dementia. Whether someone is in the early stages of dementia or is too ill to communicate, they can still tell when they are being respected.
The strange behaviors that can accompany dementia can range from embarrassing to dangerous and it’s important for in home caregivers to remember that their loved one may be fearful and frustrated.