There are simply no words to define what someone feels when they’re told, “You have Alzheimer’s disease.” Those words are so overwhelming. Finding the ability to take a breath, much less finding out the next steps in how to continue day-to-day life, seems unfathomable. We want you to know you’re not alone; there’s support available and even others out there who know the same turmoil you’re feeling. While the Alzheimer’s journey can be turbulent, there’s hope at Edgewood Healthcare. We’re here to support your loved ones as if they were our own.
Let’s explore some thoughtful ways to support those living with a new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s:
As with any life-changing diagnosis, we will all go through a variety of emotions as we learn to accept living with Alzheimer’s. Anger, denial, resentment, depression, fear, isolation and loss can all walk hand-in-hand with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Open, honest communication is best when talking with your loved one about their diagnosis. Offer reassurance that you will be there every step of the way to help.
Recognize that not all of your family members will be on the same page emotionally. Encourage them all to be open and kind. If you feel it’s right for your loved one and family, you might consider professional mental health counseling. It can provide additional emotional support to manage the complexities of a new and difficult Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Make sure there is adequate help available for your loved one if they are in need of daytime or round-the-clock support. Having a team of caregivers can help to reduce caregiver burnout. If there is not a team available to meet their needs safely at home, here are a few ideas for exploring added services:
- Try companionship services in your loved one’s home so someone can be there when you or other family members cannot.
- Adult Day Services can provide support during the daytime hours. Services in this setting are tailored to those in need of memory care and personal care support.
- Try a Short-Term Stay at a Memory Care community. A short-term stay can allow a much-needed break (longer than Adult Day Services can offer) for a caregiver, and it can also provide insight into how a longer-term stay would look and feel for your loved one.
- Using a combination of the above services is also a creative way to support your loved one as well as their caregivers.
Encourage good health
Advocate for healthy habits such as balanced nutrition, adequate fluid intake, exercise, sleep and continued socialization with friends and relatives. Avoiding dehydration is always important; dehydration may increase symptoms such as confusion. Confusion can also be worsened if your loved one is not sleeping enough. Monitor and report symptoms and patterns, and share those with medical providers to ensure they’re receiving the information they need.
It’s important to meet your loved one where they are in their Alzheimer’s journey. Sometimes that means changing our plans and traditions.
When visiting with your loved one, rethink the surroundings. Things such as lighting or background noise can create anxiety or further confusion for your loved one. Ensure that the room where you’re visiting is brightly lit, and turn off TVs, radios or other background noises to help them focus and encourage conversations. Ask brief questions and allow them plenty of time to respond.
Pay careful attention to your loved one’s demeanor in large crowds, as sometimes that can increase anxiety. Smaller groups or one-on-one visits are sometimes more meaningful for your loved one as their needs change. Also, pay attention to the timing of your visits. For example, if they’re facing sundowning symptoms, meet earlier in the day. And always remember, if your loved one doesn’t want to visit or cuts a visit short, please respect that wish and try again another time.
Conversations can also slow down during visits as your loved one’s Alzheimer’s progresses. Having photo albums, magazines or other activities that don’t require verbal conversations are thoughtful ways to continue a meaningful visit without a lot of talk, if they’re not feeling up to it.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, we can introduce mindful adaptations to daily living, to better support those with Alzheimer’s. Visit the Alzheimer’s Association website and feel free to call their toll-free number anytime, day or night, for support suggestions: 1-800.272.3900.
Our specialized team at Edgewood Healthcare can bring clarity to your family or offer some ideas on how we can support you and your loved one through this journey. Find a memory care community near you, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.