What to do when your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

As a person who has spent his entire adult life dealing with people with Alzheimer’s disease, you would think I would be smart enough to know how to react when my mother was diagnosed…I wasn’t.

It is has been nearly 7 years since my mother was first diagnosed. Even though I knew the signs, I refused to believe that this could happen to my mom. I kept trying not to believe it, which is natural, thinking she would be her old self and not succumb to the fate I had seen many times.
I wanted my mom to relate to me just as she had for the last 40 years, but that was not to be. The disease had it’s own agenda.

What I learned is that I had to maximize the quality of life that my mom had, given her diagnosis, and that meant I had to relate to her differently. As the disease progresses so too does your relationship with your loved one. Be ready for this, it is painful.

The conversations you have with your loved one will change, don’t be upset if they can’t remember your Aunt Martha who they loved forever, it is part of the process. Instead focus on what they are remembering, whether it is a conversation about lunch or how nice a day it is. This may seem very trivial for a person you love and have known all your life, but remember this isn’t about you, it is about them.

As the disease progresses words will fail them completely, but don’t interpret that as the person doesn’t feel your presence. Read to them, tell them your favorite story about growing up, and most importantly touch them, hold their hand, hug them, look at them with love in your eyes.

At the very end, we need to do everything we can to let them know we value them.

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