If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s today, you are not alone. Due to the rapidly growing number of older Americans who are also living longer, more and more families are dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia firsthand. According to recent statistics, approximately 5.2 million people have Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S., with 5 million of them aged 65 and over.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that slowly damages and ultimately destroys brain cells over time. This process eventually leads to loss of memory and the ability to think and carry out daily tasks for those afflicted with the disease.
Due to the progressive nature of Alzheimer’s and the slow but steady changes in behavior and function it inevitably causes, it is very important for families to understand the nature of the disease. By doing so, family members will be in the best position to cope with its long-term effects as well as to support their loved one’s needs for increasing levels of care, support and compassion.
In conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association, leading memory care assisted living communities such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes suggest the following tips, which can prove useful in informing and educating family members, including children and others who typically interact with your loved one on a regular basis.
Important Tips for Educating Your Family:
- Let People Know – It is important to inform people about your loved one’s condition. There’s no particular right time or right way to do this. When the timing seems appropriate, be honest with family and friends and use it as an opportunity to educate them about Alzheimer’s.
- What You Should Say – Be completely honest with family and friends about the disease and its progressive effects. This helps them to know what to expect. Also, let them know if you need help with caregiving activities and be specific as to what assistance they can provide.
- Teach Ways to Have Effective Communications with Your Loved One – As a rule, speak slowly and always make eye contact with your loved one when speaking to him/her. You may need to him/her them who you are.
- Don’t Correct Him/Her or Be Impatient – If your loved one makes mistakes or forgets something, do not correct him/her and avoid doing anything that might agitate or overstimulate him/her.
- Ensure Positive Visits – Schedule visits at times when your loved one is at his/her best, i.e. when they are calm and focused. Be calm and quiet in your interactions with your loved one and don’t talk to him/her as if he/she were a child. Respect his/her personal space and don’t get too close.
- Create Pleasant Interactions – Encourage other family members and friends to do enjoyable things with your loved one. This might include looking through a photo album, listening to music, watching a favorite movie, walking or visiting old friends.
- Explain Memory Impairment to Children – Explain the changes the disease can cause now and in the future and also be prepared to answer children’s questions. It is important to be honest and to encourage them to ask questions and to share their emotions.
- Address Young People’s Questions – Children may want to ask questions at different times after they have been informed about their loved one’s condition. Be sure to keep the lines of communication open with them at all times.
- Be Understanding of Children’s Reactions – Expect each child to react differently to someone who has Alzheimer’s depending upon their level of attachment. Emotions can be wide ranging and include sadness, worry and fear. Encourage children to talk about what they are feeling and let them know it’s okay to feel sad, worried or angry. Let them know you feel that way too sometimes. Also, encourage them to stay involved with their loved one by taking walks, listening to music and other things your loved one finds enjoyable.
By informing and educating family and friends about your loved one’s condition, you can promote their understanding and empathy as well as foster interactions with your loved one that are positive and productive for all involved.
For more information on how North Woods Village can help you educate your family about a loved one with Alzheimer’s, contact us today!