When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease

Do you have a loved one who has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD)?

Not only is AD confusing and frustrating for the 5.5 million people who have been diagnosed, but it can also be difficult for caregivers. One of the best things you can do for yourself, as a caregiver, and for your loved one, is to learn how to prepare and cope.

Communication is one of the first things to change and learning new ways to communicate with those who have AD can be challenging.

 Here are some tips to keep in mind

  • When speaking use a calm, soothing tone of voice and continue to speak to them as adults.

  • Don't take things personally. Those with AD often experience mood swings and these mood swings may cause outbursts.

  • Take time to listen. Allow free space for those with AD to open up about what they are feeling.

  • Be patient with response time and refrain from interrupting. Those with AD may not be quick to answer. Give them time to express their thoughts.

  • Unless necessary, avoid making corrections. It's OK to allow patients to remember things incorrectly and to let them to repeat themselves.

  • Avoid arguing or trying to reason. As they say, roll with it. Focus on the big picture and not the small details.

  • Focus on strengths in order to help them remain independent as long as possible. For example, allow them to complete tasks they have the most confidence in. Keeping safety in mind, serve as the overseer rather than the doer.

  • It’s OK to laugh. Accepting humor in situations may relax the mood.

Being a caregiver can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. However, it can also be physically exhausting, frustrating and emotionally draining – especially if it is an addition to other responsibilities. As a caregiver, keep in mind that self-care is just as important.

Here are a few thoughts to remember

  • Don’t feel guilty about occasionally being selfish. When your needs are taken care of, then the person you are caring for will benefit too.

  • Set time aside to relax and enjoy what you like doing most: Watching your favorite TV show, curling up with a book, making plans with friends, sleeping in, etc.

  • Take the time to eat a balanced diet and exercise. Don’t let your own health fall by the wayside.

  • Find someone to talk to or join a support group. It’s helpful to simply talk out your feelings and to learn that you are not alone. Please see this article for further information about online psychologists. 

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help and to accept help when offered.

It is not easy to accept when a loved one is diagnosed with AD. It is a progressive disease and for most, the changes occur slowly over time. Being prepared may lessen the difficulty. Remember, there are many resources available, and you are not alone.