How to Deal With Alzheimer’s and The Memory Loss of a Loved One
Caring for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s can often be frustrating and emotionally taxing. Some of the following tips may help you learn how to deal with the disease and make things easier for everyone involved. Every situation is unique, and finding what works for you and your loved one may take some time and patience.
Jogging the Memory
If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, there may come a time when your loved one will no longer recognize you at times. While it may be jarring, there are steps you can take to help him or her recall memories.
- Make a photo timeline. If your loved one is a parent, make a timeline of photos of yourself at various ages, from infancy to the present. Write your name and age underneath each photo in bold, black letters. If you’re a spouse, begin the photo timeline during your courtship period. When he or she looks at the timeline and “sees” you age, it can spark memories and your loved one may be able discern who you are in person.
- Use other thought-provoking and meaningful items or activities as stimulation. Things that remind him or her of significant relationships and places, such as books and music, or activities like reading the newspaper, singing, cooking and baking, may bring your loved one back to the present. If there is a pet in the home, ask your loved one to hold or pet it, which may also serve as a catalyst to jog their memory.
Hallucinations typically occur in the later stages of Alzheimer’s. Your loved one may seem to be carrying on a conversation with someone who isn’t there, or experiencing more frightening hallucinations, such as seeing spiders crawling on the wall. If he or she doesn’t appear to be upset, there may be no need to intervene.
- Be cautious when responding. Assess the situation and determine whether the hallucination is upsetting or leading the person to do something dangerous. Respond calmly with supportive words and a reassuring touch. You may want to say something like, “Don’t worry. I’m here. Nothing is going to hurt you.”
- Think about the emotions your loved may be experiencing. Kindly ask what’s happening and acknowledge your loved one’s feelings. You might want to say, “I know this is alarming for you. It’s okay,” and give a gentle hand squeeze or hug.
- Try distractions. Music, art therapy and other activities can help hallucinations subside. Taking a walk or moving to another room may also divert your loved one’s attention to something else.
- Modify the environment. Check for sounds that might be misconstrued, such as loud outside noises or a rattling heating vent. Also, check for lighting that casts shadows, reflections or distortions which may alter someone’s visual perceptions.
Responding to Repetition
Oftentimes, those suffering from Alzheimer’s tend to be highly repetitive. After hearing the same thing over and over again, it’s natural for those close to them to get irritated or annoyed. It’s important for you to employ techniques that can reduce your frustration and keep the situation calm.
- Think about possible reasons for repetition. Does it occur around certain people or surroundings, or at a certain time of day? Is the person trying to communicate something to you?
- Don’t react, respond to emotions. When your loved one starts repeating a question or story, think about whether anxiety might be causing the behavior. Giving a gentle hand squeeze or hug while calmly answering the question may be soothing enough to stop him or her from continuing.
- Keep answers short and simple. Keeping it simple saves time and energy and can reduce your annoyance if you do have to keep repeating yourself.
- Distract with an activity. Distract your loved one with something they enjoy, such as a favorite snack or an easy chore.
- Ask a question to stimulate different thoughts. Something as simple as, “The sun is shining today, isn’t it beautiful?” may be all you need to snap your loved one out of the repetitive cycle.
Take Care of Yourself
If your loved one is safe, it’s okay to step away for a while. Making sure you pay attention to your own needs can make the time you spend with your loved one more enjoyable and less stressful. Click here to read more about how to avoid caregiver burnout.
Caring for your loved one with Alzheimer’s can be difficult, but remembering these tips can help you make the most of your time together and create more cherished memories. At Home Care Book, we can help you rest easy knowing your loved one is getting the care and attention needed. Call us at (214) 377-0711 for a free home care consultation and to get started on customizing a plan to fit your loved one’s needs.