No family wants to go through the turmoil of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but unfortunately, about 500,000 people learn the same fate each year. While no cure exists for this fatal form of dementia, early intervention and treatment can lessen the severity of symptoms and preserve a senior’s independence and quality of life.
Knowing what to do when your loved one has Alzheimer’s seems overwhelming, but your approach should include several factors, including education, love, patience, and support. These tips have helped other families in your position at the start of their journey with a loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Where To Start
As much as you, your family, or a caregiver think you know about Alzheimer’s Disease, there is always more to learn. Begin to process your mother’s diagnosis by educating yourself about the symptoms, progression, and treatment options. The more you understand, the better prepared you will be to support your loved one with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Armed with information, you can help your senior with long-term planning to decide what approach to take as challenges arise.
How To Cope
This transition may find you in the early stages of caregiving, or it may mean changing how you navigate your loved one’s needs and abilities. I always recommend establishing a daily routine, including a regular bedtime, meal times, medication schedule, and time for visitors or physical activities. The better you stick to this structure, the better your senior can know what to expect and minimize stress.
Consider joining a support group for caregivers or families of people with Alzheimer’s. These groups and other dementia resources can help you feel less alone and offer suggestions to overcome many of the problems accompanying an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Contact your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association or your loved one’s neurologist for resources in your area.
When To Help
Some family members are at a loss, not knowing what to do, and they may unintentionally avoid or pull away from their loved one with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Try to avoid this behavior and instead stay involved, but on your senior’s terms. That means keeping life simple and stress-free by minimizing noise distractions, or complex conversations. Try to resist the urge to correct your loved one when they cannot remember things. Focus on the activities they can continue to enjoy and participate in to promote purpose and meaning.
Why It Matters
The most important thing you can do is validate and reassure your loved one. Make sure they are safe and know they are loved, and stick with a smile or hand-holding when words fail them. If your senior experiences behavior and mood changes, understand that they are not intentionally trying to hurt your feelings. Try not to take these behaviors personally, and strive to find compassion, even when you feel sad or overwhelmed.
Remember that respite care may be available for your loved one with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis if you need a break from caregiving duties. My team is also here to assist you with care management, so contact us to schedule an assessment for your senior.
Best of luck!