When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, it is devastating both for them and for their family. They slowly begin to lose control of everything in their life, and family members often don’t know how to respond. It feels like you’ve lost them already, but they’re still there and they need you. It’s confusing, frustrating, and heartbreaking all at once. If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, know that caring for them is a beautiful thing. As hard as it is, they need you. As you keep loving them, let the following thoughts be an encouragement to you.
How to Love Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming, but it is also extremely rewarding. The disease slowly takes over every aspect of their life and eventually, you feel like they’re not even there. They can also become depressed, angry, irritable, and sometimes violent. They are still there, though, behind the disease, and they need your care and steady presence. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Patience, patience, patience. You will need it. A lot of it. Repetitive questions and angry outbursts will become the norm. Be careful with your tone of voice. Always approach them with love and respect, even after you’ve answered the same question for the 100th time.
- Remember who they are is not the disease. Your loved one is still there. Talk to them and spend time with them. Surround them with the things they’ve always loved- music, movies, special pillows, etc. Alzheimer’s is not who they are. Your relationship with them has shifted, but they need you now more than ever before.
- Be in the moment with your loved one. You will miss them- who they were. You will want them to come back, even if just for a day. You may even be tempted to try to change them back into who they were. Allow yourself to grieve the loss. Be in the moment with them and love them just as they are.
- Keep in mind it is the disease that controls their behavior. The disease will progress but it will seem like they are changing. It is hard, so very hard, to watch a loved one changing in front of you. Remember they are still the same person, but the disease is progressing. It is not them who is changing.
- Let yourself grieve. Alzheimer’s is a thief and a killer, but the hardest part is it does it at a slow, slow pace. Your loved one is still there with you, but not fully. You need to allow yourself to grieve losing them before you’ve lost them. Find a counselor, pastor, or friend who can help you through the process.
- Observe and know them. Pay attention to their behavior. Notice patterns. Get familiar with the things they do just prior to becoming angry or upset. Notice the things that consistently upset them. Then you can either try to prevent it or prepare yourself when you know it’s coming. Be light on your feet and ready to try many different approaches. What works today may not always work tomorrow.
- Educate yourself about Alzheimer’s Disease. Being informed about the progression of Alzheimer’s will help you know what to expect. You will understand what is happening and what is coming. It may not be easier, but it won’t be as scary and you will be better able to care and empathize with your loved one.
- Give them dignity. It’s so hard to imagine life through their eyes. To slowly and steadily lose control of your memory, your emotions, and your actions. To need others to help you take care of all your basic life functions. There is little dignity in living with Alzheimer’s Disease. Give them their dignity back. Take care of their hygiene and dress them. Treat them with honor and respect. Talk to them with kindness. Let them have all the independence they can. Find a quality assisted living facility that will help you with all of these things.
- Give them the gift of routine and daily schedules. You will reduce their confusion and frustration, especially as the disease progresses. Predictability is comforting to them.
- Be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself and don’t overextend yourself. You will not be doing anyone any good if you are not in good shape mentally, emotionally, and physically. Exercise, seek counseling, and give yourself rest. Find other family members to help so you can have breaks to refresh and rejuvenate. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself if you make mistakes. They are bound to happen. You are doing the best you know how.
- Forgive, forgive, forgive. Forgive your loved one for things they say and do that really aren’t their fault. Also, forgive yourself when you get something wrong. No one is an expert at these things. You are learning and always will be learning. The most important thing is you are there for your loved one when they need you the most.
Love Them Well
It is difficult to love someone with Alzheimer’s Disease, but they need you more than ever. Use these thoughts as an encouragement on your journey to loving them well. Remember, it is beautiful and rewarding. Contact Us to learn more about caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or for more information on Assisted Living and Memory Care.