If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia, you are not alone. Today, many families are dealing with the challenges of dementia as people are living longer and the number of older Americans continues to grow.
A diagnosis of dementia for a loved one profoundly changes many aspects of life, including family relationships and expectations. For the person with the condition, dementia changes virtually everything about their daily life. Therefore, it is important that you be aware of the changes that will likely occur and prepare to take appropriate steps that can reduce the inevitable physical and emotional challenges.
Understanding the World from Your Loved One’s Perspective
Individuals with dementia face unique challenges every day and experience many different emotions. It is essential for caregivers and other family members to comprehend these effects so they are best able to empathize, support and assist their loved one. Experts list a variety of changes and challenges to be aware of, including:
- Memory loss of recent events, names, etc.
- Trouble communicating, finding the appropriate words, completing sentences and following directions and conversations
- Simple things become challenging
- Confusion about time and place
- Struggling to complete familiar activities of daily living, such as brushing teeth or getting dressed
- Poor judgment when making decisions
- Changes in mood and personality
- Difficulty with complex mental assignments
Ways You as a Caregiver Can Help
A major concern for people living with Alzheimer’s is how they can continue to live as they had before being diagnosed with the condition. You and other family members can help to minimize your loved one’s symptoms and lifestyle changes by doing the following:
- Monitoring your loved one for any significant changes or difficulties
- Helping him/her to stay socially engaged and connected
- Encouraging exercise and physical activity
- Keeping him/her mentally active and stimulated
- “Downplaying” the condition as much as possible so it does not “own” you emotionally
The surrounding physical environment also influences how people with dementia think, feel and interact. The environment becomes increasingly important in helping your loved one to maintain a feeling of well-being and in keeping him/her from feeling overwhelmed. Experts offer the following key information that can help to minimize potential problems and triggers that can exacerbate the symptoms of the disease.
- Create a balance of stimulation and rest for your loved one
- A crowded or noisy room tends to increase his/her anxiety and agitation
- The same holds true for environments that are too quiet, too bright or dark or too extreme in temperature
- Ensure ample lighting
- Monitor and moderate noise levels
- Assure that handrails and rugs are secure to decrease fall risk
- Increase color contrast wherever possible for better vision
What Should You Say to Friends and Family?
Experience suggests that it’s best to be up front about your loved one’s condition rather than trying to hide it. Eventually, it will become obvious. There is no single right way to tell others about the disease. When the time seems right, be honest with family, friends and others.
Use this as an opportunity to educate them about Alzheimer’s and to prepare them for the inevitable changes that will occur.
Help them to realize that the person may react much differently than before and that it’s the “dementia talking” and not the loved one who is no longer responsible for his/her own actions.
Inform family and friends about what the person can still do and how much he or she still can understand.
Give visitors suggestions about how to start talking with the person. For example, make eye contact and say, “Hello George, I’m John. We used to work together.”
Take Advantage of Support Services… for Both of You
In light of the many challenges presented by your loved one with dementia and the stress and disruption it can cause in your own life, accessing support services is an imperative for both of you. Your health and the well-being of the loved one in your care depend on it!
Supportive resources can be found in many different forms including: Alzheimer’s Association services; assistance with daily living needs and housework; technological support for care monitoring, information sharing and organizing caregiver duties and physical, emotional and informational support provided by health professionals and those who have experienced similar situations.
For caregivers who recognize that the needs of their loved one are beyond what they can safely and appropriately provide in the home environment, leading residential memory care assisted living communities (MCALs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes and its “New Directions”SM program, provide the full continuum of services that have been shown to improve health and well-being, support brain health and delay the progression of memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
At North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, we believe senior adults thrive in an environment that offers an active, vibrant lifestyle with a variety of activities that engage the mind, body and spirit. Our “New Directions”SM provides a safe, professional environment and proven, best-practice programs and services specifically designed to address the total physical, emotional and social needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other serious form of memory impairment.
For more information on how North Woods Village can help you engage your loved one with Art Therapy, contact us today!