How to Support a Loved One with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

alzheimer’s support, caregiving for dementia

When a loved one is living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, they’re likely always changing. These are challenging diseases that may make it seem like the person you love is no longer there. It’s important to recognize the signs and make life as comfortable and accessible for them as possible.

Donelle Clarke, Director of Care at Nurse Next Door in Delta, BC responds to the needs of clients with Alzheimer’s or dementia in a way that’s both kind and gentle.* “We do our best to understand the common reactions and respond in ways that help improve the quality of their life. We recognize that people living with dementia are doing their best, and realize that it’s us who must change to meet their needs. We also pay particular attention to the environment around them and make the necessary changes to improve the quality of their lives on a daily basis.”

Donelle shared with us suggestions on how to support a loved with with Alzheimer’s or dementia:

  1. Seek help right away from a care provider if you notice any signs of Alzheimer’s/Dementia. “My biggest wish,” says Donelle, “is for me to get the call for help about three months before you think you need it. It’s hard to go through this alone, and even harder when you’re burned out.”
  2. Remember to say “I’m sorry” when you need to. At time, both parties might feel frustrated.
  3. Remember and celebrate the good times.
  4. Pay attention to unmet needs of anger, sadness, loneliness, fear, boredom, hunger or thirst, fatigue or over-stimulation, discomfort or pain, and the need to use the toilet.
  5. Take time for you. You need to have a clear mind to make choices for the both of you, and so you can go back to your loved one calm and refreshed.
  6. Keep a journal of your experiences and feelings. Identify the 5 Ws: Who, what, where, why, when, and how for both you and your loved one.  
  7. Consider reaching out to your local Alzheimer’s Society.
  8. Educate yourself. Watch Teepa Snow on YouTube. You are not alone!

Recognizing the common symptoms of Alzheimer’s/dementia can help you get support early, which can prevent injuries and makes life easier for everyone. Keep an eye out for the following:

  1. Memory loss 
  2. Declining physical ability to perform routine tasks 
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks 
  4. Confusion with time or place 
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships 
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing 
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps 
  8. Decreased or poor judgment 
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality 

While you want to support the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, make sure to take care of yourself. You might experience the different emotions of grief (denial, anger, sadness, bargaining and acceptance). It’s not easy to see your loved one go through difficult changes.

With the right care provider and mindset, you can help make their life as easy as possible.

Would you like to share your experience with Alzheimer’s or dementia? Let us know in the comments.

*As a Certified Dementia Consultant under Teepa Snow, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA, Donelle Clarke and the team at Nurse Next Door in Delta, BC follow Teepa’s Positive Approach to Care (PAC) in dealing with both families and people living with dementia. 

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  1. Gregoria Graham

    In my many years of working with Alzheimer patients i have seen garbled speech,wanderings,forgetting how to used utensils and mood swings.

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