Alzheimer’s is such a devastating disease. Nerve cells in the brain die off in large numbers, and as they do, memories and clear thinking abilities begin to disappear. Changes occur physically, and the brain no longer properly sends signals to the rest of the body. It is a slow disease that affects the patient and all of their friends and family as they try to come to terms and adjust to the “new normal.”
There is no simple check list, no easy recipe to find your balance when you living with someone who suffering from this debilitating disease. Having patience, and lots of it, is important to let everyone still enjoy life and each others company. Although it’s not a simple to-do list, there are things that can be done to help cope with the daily life changes that are coming about.
Show Patience with Communication: A person with Alzheimer’s may have difficulty finding the words they want to say, lose their train of thought, have trouble concentrating if there is noise around, or understanding what previously common words mean. It can create so much frustration on both the speakers and the listener’s part. But it is important to have that patience and let the words come when they can. Don’t automatically jump in to fill in a sentence or statement. Attempt to limit distractions while having a conversation. Provide a gentle touch to encourage them to continue. Try to maintain eye contact which shows a connection, which is what all people crave, especially when changes are coming that they can’t prevent.
Stay Active, but with Patience: Maintaining certain physical and social activities help a person remain engaged and improves their mood. There may be no reason why many activities the person with AD (Alzheimer’s Disease) had before can’t be continued, but they make take some adjustment. Regular walks, visits to favorite places, even daily activities might need some additional preparation, planning, or rescheduling. The person might have always liked to garden in the morning, but with the progression of the disease, afternoons might be temperamentally better. Be ready for adjustments, but don’t discourage or automatically say no to an activity. For a person with AD, something as simple as weeding, going for a walk, or fishing provides a sense of accomplishment – that they still can.
Have Patience with Yourself: Living with and caring for someone with AD is difficult. As the disease progresses there may be personality and physical changes, outbursts, and anger. It’s hard to see someone you care about go through this, but it’s important not to try to hold on to or force them to be the person you remember. Bad days happen, but the person is sick and some outbursts shouldn’t be taken personally. Take time for yourself, to do things you enjoy. Work with a home care provider to give you a break. Or coordinate with other family and friends.
There are millions upon millions of people suffering from this degenerative disease. As sad as that is, there is also an amazing network to discuss frustrations with. Know that you are not alone, and that a little patience may take you a long way in helping your loved one.