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World Alzheimer’s Month: How You can Support A Family Member

elderly couple embracing
By Michael Riley

September is World Alzheimer’s Month. According to the CDC, in 2020 about 5.8 million people were living with this debilitating disease. That also means that with so many people who have received this diagnosis, it’s very likely that you may know someone who has been diagnosed.

If you’ve received news that your family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, here are some tips on how you can give them the support they need to stay strong:

Educate Yourself

One of the best first steps you can take is to educate yourself about the disease. When you know what to expect, when to expect it, and how to respond to these changes, you’ll be better able to handle changes when they do occur.

It’s also important to remember that your family member hasn’t immediately changed since the diagnosis occurred. While your friend or family member may be experiencing symptoms that made them seek help, the diagnosis didn’t cause them to have the disease. It was already there.

Stay in Touch

A solid support network can make a big difference in how someone feels. Even if they seem preoccupied with their diagnosis, a thoughtful card or even an e-mail can let them know you care. This is especially important as their disease progresses, because so many people drop communication once it starts getting difficult.

Offer to Help

While the offer may be declined at first, letting the family know you are available to help can also make a big difference. You can also specify how you’re willing to help, such as offering care if or when it is needed, dropping off meals, or simply offering companionship. All these things can make a big difference.

If you notice the family member in charge of caregiving is struggling, it may also be time to make a gentle suggestion that additional help is needed. Many family caregivers feel like they are failing their family if they can’t cope with the ever-advancing needs of that person’s care; but in reality, this is a very normal experience.

A few gentle words may be all they need to realize that getting help is okay.

Listen with your Heart

As Alzheimer’s disease advances, communication can become more difficult. Your friend or family member may forget words, and struggle to get out simple sentences. It’s important to be patient when this happens, and to not avoid the person so you don’t have to have these conversations.

The best way you can help is to listen, not just with your ears, but with your heart. What are they trying to say? What verbal and visual cues are they giving? How would you want to be responded to if you were in the same situation?

A bit of patience can go a long way in helping everyone through the more difficult parts of this disease.

Support Alzheimer’s research

One final thing you can do to show you care is to make a donation to finding a cure. As of right now treatment of the disease is mainly a matter of managing symptoms, and there is no cure. We can change that by funding research that will one day make Alzheimer’s a thing of the past.

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating disease, but with proper care and management, the final stages can be put off for many years. It’s important to understand that the person in your life who was diagnosed is still very much a person, has feelings, and may well need help. Supporting them through this time is one of the best things you can do.

For more Alzheimer’s tips and information, or to find out about respite care for a family caregiver, contact Homewatch CareGivers of Charlotte today