How to Cope With Alzheimer’s: For the Family

During Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, we thought it would be beneficial to families to provide an overview of how to cope with Alzheimer’s. Many of the families that interact with us on a day to day basis are either worried about the possibilities of Alzheimer’s disease rising or are already experiencing its effects. It’s important for you to understand how to best support your elderly loved ones in all areas, especially when they are facing a disease like this.

In the past years, there have some been some great advancements in better understanding Alzheimer’s disease, how to deal with it, and research for a cure. However, the reality remains that more than 5 million Americans are currently living with the disease, and it is estimated that 1 of 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another kind of dementia.

Learning how to cope with Alzheimer’s takes time and patience. In this article, we’ll look at three specific areas of life affected by Alzheimer’s disease and how you can best support your senior loved one in these areas.

Memory Loss

Early signs of Alzheimer’s can actually be spotted in adults in their forties or fifties. What begins as a slight memory loss problem grows worse over time. Eventually, a person with Alzheimer’s will have a very difficult time remembering old information or new information.

Obviously, this kind of memory loss can cause confusion and disorientation for the senior. Here are a few tips for dealing with the senior when it comes to memory loss:

  • As often as possible, use positive validation instead of correcting the senior when he or she is confused or doesn’t remember something. Correcting is often not helpful, while positive validation can encourage the senior.

  • Simply understand that a lot of things will take longer for the senior to understand.

  • Avoid talking about things that the person with Alzheimer’s most likely won’t remember.

Communication Challenges

Some of the memory loss problems associated with Alzheimer’s can negatively affect a senior’s ability to communicate. Learning how to cope with Alzheimer’s often involves learning to cope with an inability to effectively communicate thoughts and emotions. This can obviously cause stress, and seniors with Alzheimer’s can even become combative, but there are a few tips that can help everyone involved.

  • Always use a calm tone when speaking to a senior with Alzheimer’s, but do your best to speak directly to them.

  • Try to keep distractions away so the senior can focus.

  • While the senior may want to be isolated, it’s important for him or her to continue communicating with family and friends. Not doing so can actually cause the disease to worsen.

Activities of Daily Living

At some point, a senior with this disease will struggle in completing some basic tasks. For him or her, learning how to cope with Alzheimer’s will require learning how to cope with less independence. This loss of independence can be one of the most devastating factors of the disease, but the family can help support the senior in these ways:

  • Be patient with the person with Alzheimer’s and with yourself. Almost everything in life is going to have to slow down.

  • Take extra precautions when it comes to things like bathing. Install grab bars, and get the senior a walker if it will help.

  • Just as with the need for the senior to keep communicating, it’s important for the senior to also keep active. Not doing so will just make the disease worse.

Final Thoughts on How to Cope with Alzheimer’s

It’s important for you to learn all you can about Alzheimer’s, but in the end you can only do so much. The person with this long term disease does need support, but that support is often hard to provide on your own. Don’t let yourself get burned out. In many cases with Alzheimer’s, we recommend that a couple different caregivers rotate shifts to avoid burnout.

If you are learning how to cope with Alzheimer’s, you should certainly look into connecting with the Alzheimer’s Association in your area. In this webinar, the Chief Operating Officer of the Alzheimer’s Association in Southeastern Virginia shares her expertise. When you have some time, we’d encourage you to get some helpful tips from the webinar.