Taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s disease is a difficult job, one that can cause a large amount of stress. However, if you love someone with dementia, it can bring joy into your life and be extremely rewarding if you remember a few simple things.
In honor of the upcoming Valentine’s Day, here are 20 things to remember when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Overcoming Challenges in Caregiving
Over 15 million people in the United States alone care for someone with Alzheimer’s. While the caregiving journey can be rewarding, it is no secret that it can also be overwhelmingly challenging.
As the disease progresses, it becomes easier to forget that your loved one is still present. Many caregivers are frustrated by their loved one’s inability to communicate their thoughts and their inability to remember names and faces. The disease eventually takes away independence so that caregivers become the mind, hands and feet of people struggling with dementia.
Many people who have the disease struggle with depression, and some can become violent, further increasing frustration for caregivers. But, despite all these challenges, loving someone with Alzheimer’s can be extremely rewarding and although it may not be obvious, your loved one is still there, behind the disease.
20 Things To Remember if You Love Someone with Dementia
Here are 20 things to remember when loving someone with Alzheimer’s:
- Remember the person is more than the disease. When someone is diagnosed with dementia, it can be devastating to them and their loved ones. Hold on to who you know they are, before the diagnosis.
- Do not argue with your loved one. Arguing with your loved one about a forgotten memory will only upset them and further frustrate you. Be willing to let most things go.
- The disease is responsible for their personality and mood changes. It can be so hard to watch a loved one change before your eyes. Remember that they are not changing, but the disease is progressing.
- Take care of yourself. When caregivers do not care for themselves they can experience caregiver burnout. Be sure to take a few minutes to yourself every day and join an online or local caregiver support group.
- Meet your loved one in the now. Don’t try to change your loved one back into the person they once were. Grieve the loss of your loved one and then love them as they are right now.
- Use every method of communication to reach your loved one through the disease. Art, music, dance, poetry, drama and reading are all ways to connect with your loved one when verbal expression is no longer an option. Even a simple touch on their arm can help communicate that they are loved.
- Be educated about the disease. Learning as much as you can about the progression of Alzheimer’s can help you understand and empathize with your loved one.
- Understand your own physical and emotional limitations. Act accordingly to avoid stress and caregiver burnout.
- Give them independence when possible. As tempting as it may be to do everything for your loved one, it is important for them to do as many things as possible by himself or herself, even if you need to start the activity.
- Develop routines and predictable schedules. As the disease progresses it is more important than ever to have set routines and scheduled. This can help to eliminate confusion and frustration for your loved one.
- Don’t underestimate the power of good nutrition. Studies have linked Alzheimer’s to lifestyle choices, including poor nutrition. Limiting refined sugars and increasing vegetables can help manage behavioral issues.
- Plan daily time for physical exercise. It’s important to focus on the health of your mind, but also your body during this time. Physical exercise can help, especially if you plan a time for it each day.
- Rely on family members and other loved ones when needed. After everything you have done to support your loved one with Alzheimer’s, remember that you also need support for yourself as well. Turn to family members and other loved ones when you need them.
- Take immediate action to complete living wills and other essential documents.
- Remember that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is not a death sentence. Many people with the disease live more than 20 years following a diagnosis. Take advantage of the time you have left with your loved one.
- Have fun! Your loved one can still have fun. Trips to the park, zoo, local museums and even everyday chores can be enjoyed by someone with Alzheimer’s.
- Be realistic in your expectations for yourself and your loved one. Set realistic goals and learn to expect the unexpected. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic expectations as your loved one struggles with Alzheimer’s.
- Maintain a current list of medications and dosages of medications. This will ensure you always know when their next dose of medication will be and you will be able to accurately share any medication information with doctors or other caregivers.
- Remember that your loved one can remember emotions even after they forget the actual event that caused those emotions. Your words and actions matter!
- Take a deep breath! Caregiving is a big responsibility but you are doing a great job.