Not being known by someone who is the centre of your world.
Not being able to recognize the person you once idolized; seeing a completely new and strange person replace someone who was once so familiar to you – coping with the changes that the effects of Alzheimer’s can have on a loved one can be quite challenging.
Not only is it hard to accept the changes that you see happening before your very eyes, it is hard to understand how to deal with those changes. However, accept and understand you must, because at the end of the day, that person is still your grandparent, your parent, a dear friend, or someone else who you hold near and dear to your heart.
Part of the battle of successfully coping is understanding what to expect. You want to make the most of your time with this person, but feeling overwhelmed and unable to process the changed person that you see before you is natural.
In order to make the most of your visit with a loved one with Alzheimer’s, prepare yourself so that you can enjoy your time together as much as possible.
You have the image of your jovial grandfather in mind, but upon visiting him, you are startled to find how much he has changed. In order to avoid feeling overwhelmed, be knowledgeable about the changes that you will likely experience. He or she may not know who you are, may become easily upset, or may think you are someone else. Knowing to expect this type of experience can allow you to respond in a positive way, ensuring your visit is a successful one.
Offer a Greeting
If your mother has Alzheimer’s, you know that her not knowing or recognizing you is not abnormal. By offering a warm greeting and introducing yourself, you offer her the chance to place who you are and set the stage for a successful meeting. Those with Alzheimer’s tend to crave physical touch, so offer a warm hug or hold their hand as you sit together.
Though your loved one may be forgetful and may even act childish in some ways, always treat him with respect. Never belittle or talk down to him. He is a person who has lived a full life and is battling a very difficult disease. Show your respect and be courteous – although they may not be able to show their appreciation, it’s very important.
Sharing too much at one time with your loved one is often overwhelming for them. Pick and choose what you want to say, or talk about, and pay attention to their physical cues. When you notice them becoming tired or irritable, it’s okay to simply sit quietly.
Show Your Love and Support
Even if your loved one never gains a sense of who you are during your entire visit, show her your love and support anyway. Your loved one can sense your emotions, and those emotions will greatly impact her long after you leave. In fact, she may associate those emotions with you the next time you visit, so be sure to leave things on a calm and positive note.
Don’t Get Upset
Naturally, the changes Alzheimer’s brings to your loved one are difficult and hard to deal with. However, don’t let your frustrations get the best of you! This will make the visit more difficult for everyone, perhaps leading to more discouraging visits in the future.
Preparing yourself, knowing what to expect, and exhibiting the right attitude toward your loved one greatly impact the success of your visit, making your time together memorable and meaningful.
Tara Heath is a freelance writer in Southern California. As her grandma currently battles Alzheimer’s, she finds these tips practical and helpful for visiting her. She contributes health content to the Presidio Home Care blog.