Supporting someone with Alzheimer's
Those living with Alzheimer’s dementia are often forced to rely on those around them for caring duties, and this can result in significant changes to personal relationships. During this time, family members, partners, and other loved ones may see the relationship dynamic begin to shift between themselves and the one they’re supporting. This change can feel scary, but there are lots of steps that those supporting someone with Alzheimer’s can take to make the transition easier and calmer on everyone involved.
Keep things Simple
When behavioral and emotional changes become evident, it can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing in both parties. At this time, it’s beneficial to focus on breaking the day into smaller, more manageable tasks. It’s best to say or ask for one thing at a time in order to reduce confusion and help to easily direct the person you’re caring for.
It’s also important to maintain some kind of routine, in response to your loved one’s individual needs. This helps to give structure to the day for both you and them, and let’s them know that certain things will happen at specific times throughout the day -- which can feel very comforting and grounding in episodes of confusion.
Ask for help with tasks around the house, such as folding laundry or setting the table. This small activities are not too demanding, and can offer a neutral setting for you and your loved one to feel mutually needed outside of the roles of caregiver and receiver.
Sometimes, telling the person you’re caring for that they are safe and that you are there to help them can go a long way. It can also help to validate the emotions that the person is displaying, even if they’re not able to communicate them clearly. For instance, express that the person “seems worried” if they look visibly uncomfortable, giving validation to their feelings even when words fail. This can also help you to more accurately recognize and respond to their needs, instead of waiting on verbal cues.
Be patient, with them and yourself
The act of caring for someone you love can be frustrating on many levels, particularly as the development of Alzheimer’s can bring about some tumultuous periods. It’s important to focus on patience with the person you’re caring for, and to remember that their difficult days are not a product of something you’ve done wrong, nor are they always going to be an appropriate measure of the way you deserve to be treated normally. Be kind, and patient with the person, but remember to extend that same compassion to yourself.
You are doing your best. If during times of frustration you need to pause or step away for a moment (when it’s safe to do so) this is better than lashing out at your loved one. Be forgiving of yourself for the things you get wrong, and please do reach out and ask for help when needed. Support groups can offer a shoulder to lean on to patients and caregivers alike, and you should prioritize looking after your own mental health in addition to your caring duties during this challenging time.