It’s estimated that nearly 5.5 million people over the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
That’s more than 1 in 10 senior citizens. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that slowly destroys memory and other cognitive functions. Depending on the type of Alzheimer’s, the diagnosis could remain for years or even last a lifetime. Those who suffer from it typically experience memory loss, mood swings, irritability, jumbled speech, confusion, anger, and loss of appetite. While the disease is difficult for those who suffer from it, it also takes its toll on family members.
Whether the diagnosis is new or if the condition has been advancing for years, there are a few things you can do to support your suffering family member.
As a family member, it’s often difficult to separate Alzheimer’s and its side effects from the memories you have of your loved one. You may feel like the person you once knew has completely disappeared. It’s not uncommon for family members to become frustrated or angry as they try to coax their loved ones out of their state of confusion. While you may think that your family member can snap out of their symptoms if you work hard enough, that’s typically not the case. Unfortunately, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s can rarely be reversed. Instead, we encourage you to find ways to accept the disease for what it is and find methods to cope.
The best way to provide support through an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is to educate yourself on the disease. Attend doctor’s appointments with your loved one to learn more about their specific symptoms and to broaden your knowledge on the subject. Then, conduct as much research as you can to better understand what Alzheimer’s is and how it affects those who suffer from it.
Someone you care about may have Alzheimer’s, but that doesn’t change the fact that you love them and want to be there as a support system. However, all the love in the world isn’t enough to keep frustrations at bay. Keep that in mind as you support your loved one and help them deal with this debilitating disease. It’s easy to become angry or feel hopeless when daily tasks take longer than usual, or when your loved one doesn’t recognize your face. Responding with anger will only leave your loved one further flustered and confused.
It’s best to develop coping mechanisms to deal with your frustrations once they arrive. Realize that, while the situation may not be ideal, there’s no one that your loved one needs more than you. Even though it may be hard, avoid arguing or fighting with your family member. Instead, take a deep breath. Count to 10 if you need to. You can even focus your mind on a happy memory of your loved one. Do whatever it takes to maintain your patience and calm your frustrations. You’ll find that you enjoy your time with your family member more.