It’s never easy to watch a loved one experience changes that he or she didn’t ask for. When the cause of the changes is Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia-related illness, it can be particularly difficult. Living with Alzheimer’s requires that caregivers make a few changes of their own, particularly in their attitudes and in their understanding of the disease. Here are a few points to consider.
Alzheimer’s disease is about the brain
The condition known as “Alzheimer’s disease” likely has been present in humans nearly since the start of life as we know it. Today it gets its name from German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer who, in 1901, first identified the specific symptomatology in a 50-year-old female patient. Other similar cases began being described in the medical literature of the time, and soon “Alzheimer’s disease” became the accepted medical name.
A neurodegenerative disease, a classic early symptom is short-term memory challenges, with other symptoms presenting as the condition progresses. These include but aren’t limited to:
- Challenges with self-care
- mood swings
- trouble understanding spoken or written language
- forgetting names and faces
- behavioral issues
It’s important for those caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease to understand that these changes are not under the control of the affected individual.
Diseases of the brain cause a person’s mind to function in unusual ways. But remembering that the person with the condition is still the person – just with some new traits – will help caregivers remain compassionate and effective in helping the individual move into a new and often unsettling world.
Patience and understanding are keys to living with Alzheimer’s
In the early stages of a loved one’s illness, many families marshal their forces and arrange to provide care in a home setting. Initially, the care required is fairly simple and may include giving helpful reminders, re-orienting the person to his or her surroundings, assisting with hygiene and answering the same or similar question several times.
As the disease advances, a widening scope of symptoms present themselves, often causing frustration and “burn-out” on the part of family members. To a great degree, these reactions can be tempered if caregivers take the time to educate themselves about the disease and its usual symptoms. Patience also is critical, similar to what’s needed when dealing with children who require varying amounts of time to learn certain principles.
Of course, in Alzheimer’s disease, many of those “principles” will never be fully learned by the patient, making the need for patience and understanding all the more important.
In most situations, the time will come when caregiving family members must accept that they can no longer adequately look after their loved one. This is not admitting defeat. Rather it’s acknowledging the fact that the human brain is capable of changes that we at one point no longer can understand or come up with ways to best serve.
In Pennsylvania, Living Branches Retirement Communities offer compassionate care programs to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. If you’d like to know more about a safe, welcoming home as a transition for your loved one, call us at (215) 368-4438. We’ll help you make a decision that’s best for everyone concerned.