Growing up I was fortunate to have a very close relationship with my grandparents. My relationship with my grandparents is what gave me the itch to work in the field of geriatrics.
My grandmother and I shared a very special bond and after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease it was very difficult for me to face the effects of the disease on a personal level.
1: “You are responsible for the energy you bring into a room”:
Years ago, I was watching the Oprah Winfrey show and the guest on her show said that very comment. From the moment I heard it I adopted it as my own personal mantra.
No matter how you feel, or what you are going through, when visiting your loved one, leave all negative feelings at the door.
Walk in with a smile, good posture and in great spirits. Your mood will be infectious and will be felt by your loved one.
2: Visit at a time that is best for them:
When visiting your loved one it is best to visit in the morning time as they are more alert and aware. As the day progresses there may be an increase in confusion and/or agitation and your visit would cause further agitation. During your visit be aware of their personal cues as their attention span may be short; if you see they are fidgety, getting tired or inattentive it is best to leave. It is not the length of the visit that matters but the quality of the visit.
As the disease progresses it may become increasingly difficult to maintain a conversation with your loved one. The sense of touch is a wonderful way to connect with them; holding hands, hugging, giving a massage are all wonderful ways to let them know you are there.
4: Be Patient:
At times, it is very difficult to manage the behaviors associated with the disease. Some days you will be more patient then others, this is very normal. Understand, that your loved one is not aware of their behaviors and the affect it may have on you. Be honest with yourself and visit when you feel you at your best.
5: You will never win an argument with someone who has memory loss:
You cannot reason with someone who has memory loss, so don’t even try. Even if you know you are right it is not worth the battle as you will never be able to convince them otherwise. Acknowledge, validate their feelings and redirect the conversation and/or activity.
6: Reach out for professional help when the level of care becomes increasingly difficult:
Homecare workers are wonderful supports to the family. They can assist with a variety of personal and household needs. Choose a time during the day that would be most helpful to your loved one and yourself. Having assistance will allow you to step back on some of the caregiver responsibilities and give you special time with your loved one. It is very important that your homecare worker has expertise in dealing with people with Alzheimer’s disease.
7: Know when the home is no longer a suitable environment for them:
I am a firm supporter for someone to age in place at home, however, at times; this is not the best option. When the individual’s safety is at risk it is best to move them into an appropriate setting, one that can manage the progression of the disease. It is important to plan not only for their immediate needs but future care as well. Depending on the situation, the costs of homecare may become difficult to maintain over a long period of time. Your loved one can thrive in the right environment.
8: Noise, crowds, lack of routine are their enemy:
Although you would love for them to participate in every family celebration and holiday, understand that this may not be best for them. Loud noises, crowds and lack of routine can be very difficult and cause them to be agitated and aggressive. You can still celebrate with your loved one but it is best to visit on a one-to-one rather then in a large group before or after the celebration.
Each day may bring on a different behavior, be flexible and I am sure you will enjoy your visit with your loved one!