How to Understand, Deal With and Talk to a Loved one With Alzheimer’s

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Coping With A Loved One’s Alzheimer’s Disease

A difficult time coping with parent sufferring from Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that increasingly destroys a person’s cognitive abilities. People who are suffering from such disease may gradually lose their ability to make decisions, communicate, or perform daily activities. They may also experience a change in personality, abnormal behavior, memory loss, and an increase of dementia and anxiety. If you are caring for a loved one with AD, here are some tips to maximize comfort and minimize stress.

Understand the disease and its stages of progression

Try to gather information about AD on various online sources or at the library. You may also find local organizations that offer free education about AD. It might be difficult to face some facts, but you should know what to expect. There are seven described stages to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Many patients aren’t diagnosed until they have reached stage four. Try to determine which stage your loved one is in, and what symptoms are evident as the disease develops. 

Seek medical treatment

A specialist makes the diagnosis. Psychiatrists, neurologists, and primary care physicians are all very adept at making necessary diagnosis. Typically, a Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE) is administered. CAT scans and PET scans are also done to rule out stroke caused by dementia (stroke caused by dementia seems to have more step like decline in mental ability whereas AD is a steady downward arch).

Although there’s currently no cure for AD, there are a number of medications that will show the development of the disease, and in some instances, extend a patient’s mental processes longer than they would have had without any medications. These medications include holinesterase inhibitors which consist of Exelon, Aricept, and Razadyne. Cholinesterase inhibitors can be performed in very early to late stages of AD. Namenda, a glutamate reducer, is also taken as an additional therapy to cholinesterase inhibitors in early to late stage Alzheimer’s.

Plan ahead

Once you’re aware of how Alzheimer’s disease may affect a person, think ahead and prepare yourself for the changes that will follow. You’ll need to prepare both emotionally and financially. Eventually, you’ll probably need to assist the patient with his personal hygiene and toileting; adapt mealtime habits to suit his condition; and purchase a wheelchair when he can’t move easily.

Make a safe environment

Transform your home into a safe and sound place for the patient you’re caring for. Make sure you limit access to medicine cabinets and dangerous areas. Install automatic shut-off devices and child-safety locks. You should also install grab-bars in the bathroom. It may be necessary to take measures that will prevent the patient from leaving the house and wandering off.

Anticipate personality and behavior changes

A loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will lose the ability to execute simple and complex tasks. His sleep-wake cycle will also be disrupted, keeping you up several nights. Also, the patient may suffer hallucinations, recognizing you as an impostor or enemy. Keep in mind that as a caregiver, you’re helping a loved one- not a disease. So, treat the patient as you, yourself, would like to be treated.

Share memories

Try to enjoy sharing memories from the patient’s past for as long as they’re able. As the person with Alzheimer’s disease is losing their capacity to learn and retain information, talking about their past may allow them to revisit happy moments.

Share laughter

Although a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease may not be able to recognize you or even his closest friends or relatives, often their feelings can be expressed by means of interactions geared towards their present capabilities. Almost everybody is capable of receiving kindness and love.