By Jeanette Arnold, MSW, LCSW, ACSW
When your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, the impact is wider than just for the patient. The effect on the family can be feelings of being overwhelmed and powerless that can last for years. Some families cope by denying the diagnosis and praying for a miracle.
As a caregiver for someone suffering from Alzheimer's disease, you'll face difficult challenges as you try to provide care.
Understanding the behavior of a person with Alzheimer's can help lessen these difficulties. Maria Shriver, daughter of Eunice and Sargent Shriver, recently hosted a series on Alzheimer's. Her key message was that Alzheimer's is a “Boomer’s” disease, and that young people should care about Alzheimer's because they're going to end up taking care of their parents financially, emotionally and physically. Alzheimer’s can upset the family dynamic, and it's not something that's going to happen some other time. Every 68 seconds in America, someone develops Alzheimer's disease. (AARP, 2013)
From the beginning, the one thing that often gets overlooked is to remember to take care of yourself. Do self-care sort of things. Join a support group where you’ll find that you're not alone, share experiences, learn coping mechanisms, and most importantly, get some time to yourself. Also, do research on your own; it's empowering.
An easy place to start your research is with the Alzheimer's Association, the world's leading health organization on care, support and research. The Alzheimer's Association offers 10 tips for people who are new to dealing with Alzheimer's as a caregiver.
- Be flexible; adapt to the person's preferences
- Help the person stay as independent as possible
- Guide by using easy, step-by-step directions
- Speak in short and simple words
- Avoid rushing the person through a task
- Encourage, reassure and praise the person
- Watch for unspoken communication
- Experiment with new approaches
- Consider using different types of products, such as large-grip toothbrushes or bathing chairs
- Be patient, understanding and sensitive
You may find that sometimes you need guidance. BJC EAP can help. Another place to do research and find support is the Alzheimer's Foundation of America website.