In preparation for World Alzheimer’s Day September 21, we’re highlighting some of the unique challenges faced by in-home caregivers supporting those afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.
Before you see it first-hand … and live with it day after day … your perception of caring for an Alzheimer’s or dementia sufferer may be limited. More than just profound forgetfulness, the long-term effects are severe and often disturbing, particularly in somebody we love.
The most heartbreaking symptoms of this ruthless disease are the personality changes that often accompany the progression. In many cases, these changes are due to continued deterioration of mental function, but they also can be caused by environmental factors or even drug interactions. Your first course should always be to work with your physician and other health care providers to rule out these possibilities or address any others that exist.
If it is determined that something environmental is triggering the negative reaction, try to identify and adjust the situation as calmly as possible. Noises from the outside or disturbing news on the television or radio are common factors. But it also may be something as simple as the ambient room temperature or a seasonal allergy of some kind.
Fix what you can actually fix first.
Avoid triggering undesirable behavior. For example, don’t spend your energy correcting him or her. It’s possible to continue a conversation without directly addressing a forgotten fact or misremembering of past events. Maybe that party Mother is reminiscing about wasn’t at the lake, but you can still have a very pleasant discussion about the pretty dresses all the girls were wearing.
Most important, remember that your loved one’s behavior is not about you. You may be the target, or even feel like the victim of an angry outburst or uncharacteristic comment, but that’s likely only because you happen to be the one-person present to witness it.
Keep in mind, though, that “being there” is the most important part of your role as a caregiver. Your presence represents stability and safety; steadying your loved one during the best and worst of times.