Caregivers at home for Alzheimer’s patients face a difficult task not only of taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s, but also of having to redefine roles and relationships. A once-independent spouse now needs to accept the fact that they need help. A parent must now be taken care of by the children for whom they’ve provided care all their lives. It is a world that is turning unpredictably upside down for many.
Alzheimer’s, unfortunately, is one of those “invisible” conditions. If the person looks fine, then they must be fine, right? In fact, sometimes the person with Alzheimer’s may not know that they have been diagnosed with it because even those closest to them are uncomfortable discussing it. However, talking about it is the first step to understanding it and to understanding what you can do to help your loved one. Here are seven ways to talk about it:
1. Be sure the person is aware of it. “You’ve got Alzheimer’s,” is a very blunt way to approach someone, and not the best thing to do for most people. If you are going to be taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s, even if you use a phrase like “memory problems”, be sure they understand that this something that’s going to affect their lives, and that you’ll be there to help.
2. Share the diagnosis. This will help you gain support from others. It also keeps you from feeling like you have to pretend that everything is fine.
3. Talk with your loved one about how to tell others. Close friends and relatives may be told one on one. When former President Ronald Reagan chose to tell others, he did so in the form a written letter.
4. Expect that some people will not believe the diagnosis at first. Especially in its early stages, Alzheimer’s is very hard to notice. Excuses are often offered, such as “Oh, you’re (or he’s or she’s) just getting older.” Instead of trying to force them to see, just accept that they are having a difficult time accepting the diagnosis.
5. Understand that some friends and even family may become very uncomfortable at the idea. They may not know how to respond to it. If some show signs of discomfort, don’t hit them with everything at once. Ease into it a little bit at a time.
6. Let people know that cards, letters, and even visits are welcome. Let them know when good times to visit are. Even mild to moderate Alzheimer’s patients can start to feel shunned by friends and family who won’t come around because they’re unsure if they should.
7. If anyone asks if there’s anything they can do, be ready with a list of suggestions. There’s no need to take this on by yourself, and if you have friends and family willing to lend a hand, accept the offer.
Alzheimer’s is a difficult condition for both the patient and the caregiver. If you can build up a support team of people willing to help, to talk, and to listen, you’ll find you have a lot more options than you may have first thought when it comes to caring for your loved one. Contact us to see how we can help and become part of your support team.