Alzheimer’s affects 1 out of 9 people. This devastating statistic suggests that most people will know a family member, friend, or acquaintance that will be diagnosed with this disease. While Alzheimer’s is an overwhelming disease for the person diagnosed, many often overlook the influence it has on family members.
Alzheimer’s is described as a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. With no current cure, it is important that the family and the individual involved learning to adjust to new life together as side effects worsen with time.
Coping with Alzheimer’s – Immediate Family
Coping with Alzheimer’s can be extremely difficult, but there are many suggestions as to what those can do to alleviate the emotional wounds caused by this disease. It is crucial to remember that because Alzheimer’s is such a progressive disease, it affects people in different ways. It is also important to recognize that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach for Alzheimer’s care. Each person will have a unique set of needs, preferences, and impairments to take into account. It is also vital to reassess these factors as time goes on. They will change over time.
Coping for A Spouse
The closest person to an Alzheimer’s victim is often the spouse or partner. When you both come to the realization of this life changing disease, you may find yourselves at a loss and may not know how to cope. There are many things you can do to help your spouse/partner, first being that you continue to do your daily routines or activities. It is important that you don’t drastically change your routine until necessary. Once the time comes where you may not be able to participate in your usual activities, find new ones that you can enjoy together. Most importantly, stay patient with each other as you both may be suffering from the results of this disease.
Coping for Children
Possibly the most important persons to help cope is younger children. Whether it be children or grandchildren, Alzheimer’s can be very scary and can be confusing at times. This disease may inhibit children from doing things they love, may cause resentment because their grandparent or person affected is different, or may even create anger and questions as to ‘why’. It’s critical to discuss the changes that the victim may experience. Describing and educating a child on this disease can help them to better understand and deal with the emotions that come with the events caused by Alzheimer’s. Do not stop reminding a young person that the disease is not their fault and that the person’s behavior is part of their dementia and not caused by the child itself. Lastly, don’t forget to find joy and humor in situations when appropriate. It can help all parties involved if everyone can laugh together.
Coping with Alzheimer’s – Those Outside of the Family
Outside of the family, do not forget others who are impacted by Alzheimer’s. In any case, whether it may be friends, neighbors, or co-workers, always offer to share your experiences with the disease. There is no normal for grieving, no predictable diagnosis, and no time frame to know when changes are coming. The losses your friends or acquaintances may experience during their loved one’s disease is immeasurable. The best thing you can do for a friend is to help them adjust (if needed), continue supporting them in their daily/normal activities, and always be there to talk through the emotional times.
Those with Alzheimer’s disease become upset and agitated about things that happen to them. When caregivers, family, or friends witness a loved one’s heartbreaking diagnoses, they may become troubled as well. Society must not forget that dementia does not just destroy the mental state of the person affected, but those around them as well. Being educated on this matter can help family cope, aid in emotional and financial support through programs like CDPAP, and make the journey less painful for all involved. And of course, don’t give up on your loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s, even if they do. No day will be the same and you may feel that you’re getting nowhere. This is normal and often you will feel as though your efforts really do not count. Your loved one thanks you, even if they can’t express it. If needed, please don’t hesitate to call the Alzheimer’s 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900.