In honor of World Alzheimer's Month, it is important to spread awareness of the disease and find ways to support and help those living with it. If you have a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia, the way they feel and experience life changes. This includes their relationships, environment, and so much more. When it comes to supporting someone who has Alzheimer's or dementia, it is important to gain a better understanding of the disease, and what it is like to live with it. This article will focus on these aspects and also provide you with a guide to help you learn how to support someone with Alzheimer's or dementia.
Your loved one is experiencing a world that is very different than it used to be, so in order to better understand and support them, it is important to try and see things from their perspective. If they are reacting to people and situations differently than they used to, then the question you might want to ask is why? This is of course a rhetorical question that helps us try to recognize the type of coping strategy that our loved one is using which in turn tells us how to help them. There are a variety of coping strategies that your loved one might use which includes:
- Practical Strategies – You may see an increase in sticky notes, reminders, alarms, and prompts. This might include preparing legal documents, advanced decisions, or a power of attorney. If your loved one starts to do these things on their own, you can help by recognizing when they forget something often enough to warrant a reminder, then ask your loved one if they want a note or alarm for that specific item.
- Social Strategies – Your loved one may seem as though they are relying heavily on a friend or family member for help remembering things or people. They may also start seeking spiritual support or joining new activity groups. You can help your loved one with this strategy by joining them in meetings, outings, etc.
- Emotional Strategies – You may see your loved one become overly humorous, focusing on living in the moment, short-term pleasure, or even taking a new lease on life by becoming overly positive. You can help your loved one with this strategy by ensuring that they aren’t alone.
- Health Improvement Strategies – Some individuals start making healthier choices, such as being more active, eating healthier, and cutting down on alcohol and smoking. Supporting your loved one in this endeavor helps.
In the end, the way your loved one copes with their dementia will rest on their own unique personality, life experiences, education, environment, and the support they receive. Your loved one may even use different coping strategies at different times, or a combination of any of them. This is normal, since Alzheimer's and dementia significantly changes your loved one’s sense of identity. Your loved one wants to hang onto themselves for as long as possible. Your loved one may also experience changes in their behavior, and as family caregivers, you can support that by trying to identify the following:
- Stimulation – If your loved one is restless, agitated, or behaving more aggressively than normal, then there may be too much going on around them to process. Try reducing the stimulation in their environment.
- Comfort – Try to be aware of your loved one’s comfort level. If they are hungry, thirsty, in pain, or irritated by uncomfortable clothing, then they may act out. You can help by following a strict schedule that addresses all of these items.
- Control – If your loved one is suddenly suspicious of others, following someone around, or asking the same question repeatedly, then there may be too much happening around them. This happens when they feel a loss of control. You can help your loved one by limiting visitors so that they can focus and feel as though they have control.
There can be many hurdles when you are providing care for a loved one who is living with Alzheimer's or dementia. Don’t forget that Homewatch CareGivers of Sterling is here to help. We can provide support, resources, and guidance as well as experience and professional care when you need it. If you’re interested in learning more about the different resources that are available in your community to help you and your loved one, then contact us today. Our goal is always to ensure that your caregiving journey goes as smoothly as possible. Reach out to us today to learn more.