Alzheimer’s disease causes a person’s brain cells to die, and this changes how a person thinks and behaves because their mind is no longer functioning as it once did. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. It’s a progressive disease, and so far, there is no cure. How caregivers respond to an Alzheimer’s patient is contrary to how you would typically respond to someone who forgets something or understands something differently than you do.
When someone is not fully intellectually functioning, correcting them constantly is not helpful or healthy for them. It brings them down emotionally, heightens their stress level, frightens them and causes even more confusion because they aren’t entirely aware of what is happening. A sense of time and events can blur, and something that happened 3 months ago, to an Alzheimer’s patient, can seem like it happened 3 days ago. Memory, both short term and long term, are affected. Behaviors and symptoms of those with Alzheimer’s are unique to each person. Some get worried, upset or angry easier, some get depressed and lose interest in things. Some pace a lot, imagine things that aren’t there, misunderstand what they see or hear and even hit people for no reason.
Providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s can be challenging. Here are some tips if you are a family member or a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s:
- Keep things simple. Ask or say one thing at a time. This helps keep their mind focused to responding to what you’ve asked.
- Daily Routines are important. Consistency helps with ‘muscle memory’, and the brain is also like a muscle in this case. Having consistency brings a sense of normalcy to an Alzheimer’s patient.
- Reassure the patient that you are there to assist them and that they are safe. This gives their mind less to worry about and helps them focus on conversations at hand.
- Use humor when you can. Humor is a great coping mechanism and laughter is great medicine for any ailment.
- Instead of focusing on words, try focusing on their feelings. For example, “You seem stressed…what’s going on?” Talking about stressors helps everyone, and especially those with Alzheimer’s.
- Try not to show your frustration or anger. The person with Alzheimer’s is not being forgetful, anxious or stressing you out on purpose. Their mind is losing brain cells and there’s nothing they can do about it. If you get upset, take deep breaths and count to 10. If you need to, and it’s safe, leave the room for a few minutes to regroup yourself.
Trousdale Living Communities have several locations that provide compassionate Memory Care services for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. Take a tour of one of our Memory Care facilities and see if they’re right for your loved one. For more information about Alzheimer’s, visit www.alz.org