Coping with Alzheimer's in Loved Ones
by Stephani Leigh
“I am the daughter of someone who suffered and was ultimately lost due to Alzheimer’s Disease.
I am the granddaughter of someone who suffered and was ultimately lost due to Alzheimer’s Disease.
I had the privilege of spending intimate time with both of them during the last years, months and days of their lives while experiencing this disease. I was able to visit them daily, be there in times of emergencies, and share in the journey of the degeneration of their minds.
Throughout your life you learn about the value of taking care of your elders, that one day they will need you as much as you needed them growing up. It is an honor to partake in that time of life no matter how difficult it can be for everyone involved. We do not want to need others, we are inclined to think we can be independent, however we are built to depend on others and that sense of independence is never complete without the care and love of those around us.
I hear people say “I don’t want that to be me when I am old.” or “ I hope I am gone before that happens”. The thought for me today of my children needing to help me bathe, eat, dress, is not a pleasant one, but I have seen that this humble service is necessary in many cases. The thought of me forgetting the ones I love, making up realities that don’t exist or maybe did once upon a dream, is deeply saddening. So, I must love those around me today enough to have them then.
There are many hard parts to witnessing this disease. In the beginning things start out of the ordinary. Odd occurrences, odd statements, trouble staying focused and we may give humorous pardons, make excuses or pretend like you didn’t notice. However, sooner than you would like, you both notice. The hardest moment for me, with both my dad and my grandmother, was the moment they realized they weren’t sharing the same reality as me. They were in this in-between and were fully aware. It was easier when it was infrequent in the beginning, it was easier when their minds had deteriorated so much that that became the norm. But, this moment in the middle was the worst.
After that it’s still hard and often confusing for the ones taking care of them. We try to understand what they are thinking, saying, doing and attach something rational to it, but the pattern of their minds is irrational and sometimes abrasive to those trying to help the most.
It’s all about love. Loving them, sharing laughs, a warm day, good food. Love is kind. Love is forgiving. Love is respect. Love is the best medicine. We can all be stronger with love, and face this challenge.”
To learn more about how to cope with a loved one with Alzheimer’s and how to recognize the signs in others, visit one of our informational events, provided by the Alzheimer’s Association.