Alzheimer’s disease is one form of dementia that affects a person’s memory and thinking ability. It usually progresses through seven stages as a person ages.
For those that are living with someone with Alzheimer’s disease, education, support, legal issues, and expectations are all important factors that one must be aware of.
Education is very important when it comes to recognizing the initial warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease (memory loss, disorientation, personality change etc.,), what to expect as the person with Alzheimer’s disease gets older, and how to live with the person who has Alzheimer’s disease.
Misinformation is easy to come by. However, organizations such as Alzheimer Society Canada (www.alzheimer.ca) and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (www.alzfdn.org) can be contacted for educational material, as well as support for those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.
Once a person is aware that the person they live with has the warning signs, the next step would be to get a definite diagnosis by a qualified doctor, who would also be able to suggest support groups that are available, refer the person to other specialists, and present various treatment options.
A person who has Alzheimer’s disease should make important decisions (health care, financial) about their future as soon as a diagnosis is made, to be sure that their affairs are in order. They will not be capable of making these decisions later on. A visit to the lawyer will be necessary to get a Power of Attorney.
What to Expect
Realistic expectations of the person with Alzheimer’s disease by those living with them is important. Patience is certainly a virtue, and can be easier to develop once the person knows what to expect.
Alzheimer’s disease is not about intelligence, but a loss of memory. A person’s abilities to function from day to day will also be affected. They must not be overwhelmed with information since they have trouble with their memory.
Those with Alzheimer’s disease respond to what is going on in their environment and this can sometimes be misinterpreted. They may appear angry for example, but could be reacting in that way to protect themselves. It is also important to remember that this person still has the same needs for a caring relationship with others as they did before they were affected.
The progressive nature of Alzheimer’s disease must also be considered since it is hard to see it happening. Changes are subtle. Once the person who live with them is aware of this, they will be able to better adjust their expectations of them. For example, the speech of a person with Alzheimer’s disease may become repetitive since they do not remember what they have just said.
As has already been mentioned, help from outside sources is very important. Support groups allow the person living with Alzheimer’s disease to relate their experiences, and realize that they are not the only ones in this situation.
Support groups may also help members to learn methods that the other participants are using to deal with those they live with. They might also learn strategies to communicate with friends who do not understand what they are going through.
A person living with one who has Alzheimer’s disease should never be hard on themselves, take care of their own health, and realize that they could be dealing with many of their own emotions such as anger and denial.
Living with a person who has Alzheimer’s disease can be a challenge. However, if a person takes the time to educate themselves, gets support from an outside agency or someone else who is in a similar situation, and then learns how to interact with that person, the challenge may not go away, but the journey will be easier.