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In honor of World Alzheimer’s Month, here are a few ways to help support a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

Each September, people from all over the world come together to raise awareness of issues surrounding Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Established by Alzheimer’s Disease International in 2012, World Alzheimer’s Month represents an extended time of advocacy and recognition around World Alzheimer’s Day, recognized annually on September 21. At ElderCare 4 Families, we want to take this opportunity to recognize those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, along with the family members and professionals caring for them.

Characterized by memory loss, cognitive decline, and other symptoms, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for 60-80% of diagnosed cases. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older are living with the disease in 2021. Seventy-two percent of these are age 75 or older. 

For most people, it may be difficult to distinguish between normal, age-associated memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. An early diagnosis can mean sooner access to available treatments, along with potentially better outcomes for the patient. If your family member has been diagnosed in earlier stages of the disease, it can be especially beneficial to seek out supportive, non-medical in-home (or in-facility) care. Located in Louisville, Kentucky and Southern Indiana; ElderCare 4 Families is ready to help your family navigate personalized elder care services that can help you and your loved one along this journey.   

When a family member or friend is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia, it can be an especially difficult transition for everyone involved. There may be a sense of loss and an increased lack of control over personal circumstances for the person diagnosed. And loved ones may feel overwhelmed with the depth of information provided by doctors, as well as the reality of a new caregiving situation. 

When a diagnosis is new, it helps to consider ways you might support your friend or loved one. And because things can change in their understanding of words, memories, and the world around them, it helps to keep a few communication tips in mind, too.

Keep a simple, daily routine.

Routines help everyone, both children and adults, know what to expect in the course of a day. This is especially true for people living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Keeping daily patterns and routines relatively consistent can help lessen anxiety for them, which can help the day run more smoothly.

Engage through conversation.

Alzheimer’s disease typically presents itself in a series of stages, and symptom progression differs with each person. Don’t assume because a loved one or friend has Alzheimer’s disease that they no longer understand conversations, or should be excluded from them. While an absence of communication may be present in later stages, people living with dementia can still have plenty to say and share! Be encouraged to engage your family member in one-on-one conversation in quiet spaces without obvious distractions. 

Offer specific assistance. 

A sense of confusion and lack of clarity is common for people with Alzheimer’s disease. If you are assisting with things like meal preparation, house cleaning, selecting a restaurant, or selecting their clothes for their day, use specific details and questions in your conversation. What may be a simple process for most of us, can seem incredibly overwhelming for someone with dementia. So, instead of asking, “What do you want to drink?” or “Where do you want to go eat?”, offer a few specific options. Instead, “Would you like a soda or juice?” or “Would you like steak or Mexican food tonight?”, is unlikely to create as much anxiety or confusion.

Be patient with your loved one.

When a close friend or family member is living with Alzheimer’s disease, it can be difficult to experience and witness alongside them. You may notice them slowly slipping in ways you don’t expect. Perhaps most common among these characteristics is loss of short-term memory and recall. This can be frustrating and discouraging for both sides. Try not to argue or reason with them, and use humor whenever you can. And if they repeat the same stories and questions multiple times, simply respond and refrain from using phrases like, “Don’t you remember what I said?” This can be disheartening and make a person with dementia feel ashamed. 

Most importantly, be sure to love your friend or family member as you always have! They may have received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but that does not define them.

Seek support!

When it comes to caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it can be tough considering support options and making important care decisions. Perhaps you are facing a new diagnosis and may not be sure where to begin. If you need support in Louisville, Southern Indiana, or surrounding counties, ElderCare 4 Families is here to support you with non-medical, in-home care elder care services. We are family owned and operated, and have proudly served residents in this area for forty years and counting! If we can assist your family, please call us 502-244-8446.

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