Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that ravishes the minds of millions of Americans on an annual basis. If a loved one is suffering from memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s, it’s not always easy to know what to say or do – particularly if they’re in assisted living.
4 Helpful Pieces of Advice
Caring for a loved one who is dealing with Alzheimer’s is tough, but it can be made a little easier when your loved one is in an assisted living facility. Here’s some advice on how you can continue to care for them in a thoughtful manner:
1. Select the Right Type of Care
The first step is to select the right assisted living facility with the appropriate care options. For someone in the very beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, a standard assisted living facility may suffice. But if there’s significant memory loss and cognitive impairments, your loved one will likely need a facility that offers memory care units.
With memory care, supervised care is provided 24/7 by qualified staff that has been trained to deal with the specific needs of dementia patients. They use activities that are designed to slow the progress of the disease and keep residents as happy as possible.
2. Practice Appropriate Communication
The best thing you can do is learn how to communicate with your loved one in a manner that’s appropriate for the stage of the disease they’re experiencing. In the early stages, your loved one will often appear very normal. But you can expect them to repeat stories and/or feel overwhelmed in social situations. The best piece of advice is to avoid excluding your loved one from conversations and to engage them as much as possible.
“As the disease progresses, the person will have greater difficulty communicating and will require more direct care,” ALZ.org explains. At this point, you’ll have to slow down your communication style and practice patience. Avoid criticizing or correcting and listen intently to extract meaning from their statements.
In the most serious stages of Alzheimer’s, your loved one won’t be very verbal and may not recognize you as someone they know. It’s always best to approach your loved one from the front and to identify yourself when speaking. Nonverbal communication is key, and your loved one’s facial expressions are telling indicators of how they’re feeling.
3. Let Yourself Be Frustrated (And Then Move On)
“I’m not a saint, and I don’t pretend to be. I get angry. I get angry at the disease, at the pain it causes, at the time we both have lost, at my inability to be a ‘normal’ twenty-something, at myself,” says Maureen Townsend, whose grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s. “Get angry, do what you need to do, then release it. You can’t harbor it. Feel it, but then let it go.”
The key is to let the frustration go. If you harbor anger and resentment – toward anyone or anything – it’ll only make you bitter. Confront your negative emotions, feel them, and then dispose of them.
4. Celebrate the Small Things
The best thing you can do for your loved one (and yourself) is to celebrate the small things. Enjoy the moments you have and don’t let the disease rob you of what you still have left. Savor each moment – particularly in the early stages of Alzheimer’s – and be an encouragement to those around you.
Stop Feeling Guilty
Most people in your situation feel some degree of guilt over the situation they’re in. This guilt can stem from any number of convictions – including, but not limited to, not spending enough time with a loved one around the clock. But you must be careful not to let this guilt weigh on you too heavily.
You have nothing to feel guilty about. Your loved one is in excellent care in assisted living, and you’ve worked together to make a smart choice that benefits everyone involved. You have your own life to live and can’t feel guilty about handling your other responsibilities.
Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that you have no control over. Let go of the pressure you feel and enjoy the freedom of living your life. There’s so much to be thankful for.