by Kae Hammond, Caregiver, Founder and Executive Director of ALZ Life Matters
The majority of us will take on the role of caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer’s without much, if any, advanced planning, prior experience or specialized training.
70% of the caregivers succumb before their loved ones according to the national Alzheimer’s Association so it’s crucial to learn about and understand the disease while discovering the tools needed to minimize the physical, emotional and mental drain. Taking Care of the Caregiver is really #1.
Here are a few high priority tips toward successful care giving.
- Delete denial.No one wants this diagnosis for a loved one; we’ve all seen how this insidious disease affects the afflicted and, of course, their diagnosis begs the question, “Will I face this disease in later years?” Denial is not an effective strategy for you and limits your ability to properly support and aid your loved one.
- Emotional feeling lasts a lifetime. Your loved one will retain the ability to feel deeply and experience emotions until their final hours. It’s crucial to remember this daily so that you speak with kindness, patience and love. Even when they are no longer able to speak they can hear and feel your tone of voice. Look directly at them when you speak so they connect the message with the expression on your face. Touch them often with softness, they will respond to gentle pats, hugs and physical warmth and this will bring them an inner calmness.
- Truth vs. Fiction. Your loved one will revert to a life set in the distant past asking about people who have long since departed. They may want to see them or speak with them on the phone. Telling them their parents or friend is deceased will prompt extreme anguish and pain which is unnecessary. Reply matter-of-factly, “They are on a cruise to Alaska and will be back in 10 days.” “We’re going to see them tomorrow, remember?” You’ve avoided unnecessary pain for you both. I bet you are thinking, “I can’t tell them a story like that, they’ll know if isn’t true.” If they were dealing in reality, they’d know their parents and friends have passed long ago. And you can tell the same story again and again!
I hope programs like we’ve developed become commonplace nationwide to empower the caregiver to better understand the disease, thereby dramatically minimizing the physical, emotional and mental toll to themselves as they as they continue on their caregiver’s journey.