Teresa had very little knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease before her mother was diagnosed in 2000. However, through hours of reading, talking to doctors and just plain old trial and error, she built up quite a store of information before her mom passed away a year ago.
Below this caregiver gives others a small head start, and advice when providing care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s:
Don’t take it personally. Even before my mother began showing significant memory loss, she just wasn’t herself and would become suspicious or angry at me, even sometimes what I’d call “evil,” for no reason at all. You simply can’t take it personally. You just have to keep reminding yourself that it is not the person; it’s the disease.
Accept them where they are. When Mom believed something that wasn’t true or asked me or my dad the same question 14 times, we’d often try to reason with her. That only led to frustration for us … and for her. While it’s hard to let it go, try to simply accept what your loved one says and move on.
Encourage memories. While those with Alzheimer’s lose their short-term memory, their long-term memory remains in tact for a while. To take advantage of those old memories, we always kept shows like “Andy Griffith” and “Lawrence Welk,” which Mom loved years ago, ready for her to watch. Photos from her past and familiar old music also seemed to soothe her.
Stimulate their cognitive skills. Use games to provide both entertainment and mental stimulation. We played Bingo with Mom to help her recognize numbers and letters. She also enjoyed coloring … until the disease progressed.
Work around names. At the point when Mom started to forget our names, but still recognized our faces, my daughter and I would help her out with reminders like, “I’m Teresa, your daughter.” That way, Mom could at least place us, rather than feeling embarrassed if she didn’t recall our actual names.
Maintain a routine. A predictable routine can be comforting when you have memory problems. We gave Mom her meals at the same time every day, showed her the same television shows every night (followed by a Klondike bar), and maintained the same bedtime.
Get help. It’s so hard to deal with this disease, all day every day. Take people up on their offers to help, or hire someone to sit with your loved one, even if it’s only for a few hours here and there. That’ll give you a chance to recharge both your physical and emotional batteries!
Share your Alzheimer’s caregiving advice.