One of the most difficult people to live with is a person with Alzheimer’s disease. But unlike the chronic complainer, the know-it-all, the narcissist and all those other obnoxious personalities, the behavior of an Alzheimer’s-afflicted individual is not of his own making, but is the result of failing brain cells. Which adds to the difficulty because you can’t call them out for their inappropriate behavior as they cannot control themselves.
If you’re living with an Alzheimer’s person, the kind thing to do is to make their remaining years as happy as possible. To do this, you’ll have to teach yourself to manage the accompanying challenges that inevitably arise. Life becomes very stressful for the family and everyone in the house if someone with Alzheimer’s lives with you, even if you are not the caregiver. You’ll need a vast reserve of patience and love, and you’ll have to teach the others, too, to have respect, understanding, and kindness for the afflicted person.
Here are 5 basic things you should know if you have a person with Alzheimer’s in the house:
1. Learn as much as you can about the disease.
Educating yourself prepares you for what to expect as the disease progresses and how to handle the person’s loss of capacities and erratic behavior. The internet and the library are full of reliable resources for learning about Alzheimer’s. You can also join support groups online or in your community to listen to the experiences of people who are in similar situations to give you encouragement and assistance.
2. For a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, memory is often the first capacity they lose.
The forgetfulness starts off as mild and gradually worsens as the disease progresses. They begin to forget names and places, then recent experiences, until they reach the stage where it becomes difficult to find words to communicate. Talking with an Alzheimer’s person will test your patience as they struggle with remembering and finding the words they want to say.
Avoid berating or rebuking them; they will be despondent or angry, and this could lead to an unnecessary confrontation. Encourage them gently and give them time to speak. Talk to them using simple words and speak clearly and slowly. Don’t ask too many questions as it will only confuse them.
Related: 7 Fun Ways to Improve Your Memory
3. Do not take the person’s moods and personality changes personally.
They are caused by Alzheimer’s and are beyond their control. People with Alzheimer’s will have meltdowns. They will say hurting words or get physically violent. Remember that the words and actions are not personal most of the time but are caused by agitation from physical or medical reasons. They may be in an uncomfortable position, lack sleep, are hungry or thirsty, or maybe it’s time for their medication.
Find the cause of the upsetting behavior and restore the person’s routine. Soothe and comfort them until they calm down.
4. Make sure that their physical needs are met and the schedule of medication is faithfully followed.
The hygiene and grooming of an Alzheimer’s person should be attended to as they will be unable to do it themselves in the later stage of the condition. Don’t neglect their nutrition. They don’t need a special diet, just a well-balanced and healthy one to maintain good health. Limiting refined sugar and processed food can help lessen and manage their behavioral irregularities.
Other things to remember when feeding a person with Alzheimer’s: keep the table setting simple; check that the food is not too hot; give them plenty of time to eat; eat together with them.
5. Provide activities and entertainment befitting their capacity.
People with Alzheimer’s will benefit from engaging in simple activities they enjoy or have an interest in, such as watering plants or setting the table. Always keep an eye on them to avoid accidents. Enjoyment, not achievement is the goal here.
Let them listen to soft and soothing music as it will help lessen agitation and erratic behavior. Avoid music that is loud and fast, and keep the volume at a lower level.
Living with a person with Alzheimer’s is challenging and stressful. But keep in mind that this is someone you love even if the disease has changed them. By learning about the condition, what issues to expect, and how you can make their lives happier, everyone in the household can continue to have fulfilling lives without regrets because you know you have done the best for them.