Learning that someone you love has Alzheimer’s Disease can be extremely sad and overwhelming. Unfortunately, being a family member to someone with dementia and specifically, Alzheimer’s can be both scary and confusing. It’s normal to struggle with how to be a good caregiver to someone with this diagnosis. The good news is that there are things you can do and things you should never do when someone you love has Alzheimer’s Disease that makes things a little less complicated. For a closer look at a few things you shouldn’t do when dealing with a relative with Alzheimer’s, read on.
Don’t assume everyone is the same.
No two people are exactly the same. Even if they share the same diagnoses, the truth is that even the stages of Alzheimers are a little bit different for everyone. While you can get fantastic information about what to expect from places like the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, it’s important to remember that the relative you love is a unique human being.
As you and your relative work together to digest the diagnosis and plan for the future, do what you can to make sure their interests and unique spirit are honored. For example, if you have a mother who loves crafting and social activities, being sure that she’ll still have social outlets is a great way to help give her quality of life and hope in spite of the diagnosis.
Never force activities.
The same way no two patients are the same, no two days are the same for Alzheimer’s patients either. Where the person you love might feel great one day, have high energy, and remember everything, the next day could be entirely different. It’s important to go with the flow while remembering the importance of self-care as you help your loved one.
Maybe you know your relative loves nature and taking walks. Perhaps it’s a great day for a walk but your grandfather isn’t in the mood for a stroll. Instead of suggesting the issue, consider asking to spend time with him outdoors at a picnic table, or even sitting with him by a window and keeping him company that way. It’s okay to have slower days, too.
Stay clear of unrealistic expectations.
Many people have hope that because their loved one is only experiencing moderate dementia or behavior changes that things won’t decline. They are startled when their relative can’t find the right words, experiences paranoia or agitation, or exhibits sudden cognitive problems that weren’t there before. While this is difficult to watch and experience, it’s important to remember that visiting your loved one with major expectations can set you and them up for a letdown. Instead of making expectations about how a visit will be, do what you can to do into it naturally with an open mind. Odds are you’ll have a better visit and make some great memories without heavy pressures or expectations.
Expectations can include yourself, too. Especially as a caregiver, your overall physical and mental well-being matter. Be sure to take breaks, ask for help, and remember that you can’t do it all alone when it comes to taking care of someone you love. In the end, it’s important to remember that people with Alzheimer’s Disease can have good days, too. Holding on to those positive moments and doing what you can to help the person you love set the pace and be most comfortable are great ways to show them your love. Best of luck to you and your relative as you work toward a future with hope and making the best new memories together possible.