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Making the Connection

There are close to 6 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer’s, which is predicted to nearly triple by 2060. As the number of people with Alzheimer’s continues to increase, so will the need for caregivers. Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias can be challenging. People with dementia may stop recognizing the person caring for them, have trouble sharing their desires and feelings, and become entirely dependent upon their caregiver for daily activities such as eating, using the restroom, and bathing.

It is not an easy task to care for a loved one that once cared for you. It can be the one who may have been the rock of the family, the provider, and the one you always turned to for support and comfort. At times it is difficult to accept that your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease; some caregivers act like they do not see the effect of the disease on their loved one’s mental and intellectual function as a way of not accepting that their loved one has the disease! “It is only old age; everyone forgets things; there are days that we can hold normal conversions, sometimes I think they know what they’re doing, they only act that way when they want their way, they are just stubborn.” Have you heard others speak this way about a family member with Alzheimer’s disease? Have you ever said these things yourself? Sometimes the statements mentioned above are also used as a form of denial!

The success of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is to educate yourself about the disease and how to manage it. Try to meet the person where they are. It’s best not to correct an Alzheimer’s patient about what year it is, where they are, or other things. This can cause agitation and reduce trust. Routine is important. Alzheimer’s patients are usually most comfortable with what they know and are familiar with. Try to avoid major changes and introduce new things slowly. Discuss behavioral changes with the doctor. Some behaviors, such as aggression, can be related to undertreated pain or maybe side effects of various medications. Above all, practice self-care. Your loved one needs you to be healthy, both physically and mentally, to provide the best possible care. It is vital to connect with other caregivers going through the same experience as yourself. Set up a support system, individuals, or resources that you can turn to in times of need.

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