Friday 23 March 2018

Helping A Loved One With Alzheimer’s Understand A Death In The Family

It is my pleasure to host this guest post today on the important topic of how to help our loved ones with Alzheimer's cope with and understand a death in the family. 

Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of Americans, and even with all the studies that have been done surrounding its effects on the brain, it’s still nearly impossible for doctors to agree on one method of treatment. It’s a disease that changes from person to person; everyone is affected in a different way, in varying stages, and no one is quite sure how best to cope with it.

When an individual with Alzheimer’s loses a loved one--especially if it was a spouse or primary caregiver--it can be overwhelming to try and help them understand that loss. They may feel grief during lucid moments but forget the death even happened on the bad days and still speak of their loved one as if they’re still alive. It can be an extremely confusing time for everyone, including the people who care about the individual and want to help them stay comfortable during such a difficult battle.

While there’s no one way to help an individual with Alzheimer’s cope and heal, there are some things you can do to help boost their physical, mental, and emotional health. Here are a few of the best.

Reduce stress
Living with an illness like Alzheimer’s can cause stress for both the individual and their caretakers, so it’s important to try and make life as easy and comfortable as possible. This means making home modifications to increase safety and ease of mobility; refraining from making any changes that might cause confusion; and making daily life as smooth as possible. Particularly if your loved one has recently lost a spouse, they may need their home to be more accessible and safe. Some home modifications are easy to do and don’t cost much to carry out, while others can run thousands of dollars and require a professional. Read on here to find out more about these modifications and which ones are right for your loved one.

Make informed decisions
It’s a good idea to talk to your loved one’s doctor about whether or not it’s appropriate to talk about a death in the family openly. People who are in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease will likely not understand, while those in the early stages may be extremely upset by the news. Talk to the doctor for insight into whether or not your loved one can handle grief at this stage and how best to break the news.

Help them build cognitive strength
Individuals who are battling Alzheimer’s disease often benefit from playing brain games, such as the ones that can be found online or via various apps for smartphones and tablets. These games help improve coordination and memory in seniors and are easy to use; a few minutes per day can be a great brain workout. Go here for more info. Additionally, music can bring many benefits. Ideas and evidence for using music for cognitive strength can be found HERE

Find ways to boost their mental health
Reducing stress and anxiety is a big start, but you can also look for ways to boost memory function, such as engaging with your loved one by putting together a favorite puzzle, or looking through old photographs from when they were younger. Music is a wonderful way to help jog the memory, so think about what your loved one’s favorite tunes might have been when they were a teenager and play them often.

--> Keeping your loved one safe and happy during such a difficult time can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Talk to the doctor about the best ways to make a difference and how to ensure their physical, mental, and emotional health are well taken care of.

Karen Weeks created as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well.  

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