When looking at diseases and conditions, we most often worry about how to support the person who has the condition. But those around them, their families, friends and immediate support system need care too. When it comes to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it can often be those people who struggle the most with the effects that the disease is having on the individual and hence, the family.
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How does a Alzheimer’s (ALZ) diagnosis affect the family?
According to the Mayo Clinic, “When a family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, the effect on your entire family can be overwhelming. The diagnosis can trigger a range of emotions — including anger, fear, frustration and sadness. There also are many decisions to make about treatment, care, living arrangements, finances and end-of-life care. As a result, family conflicts are common.”
Understanding that a diagnosis of a major condition inside of the family affects the dynamics and at the very least creates stressors, emotions, worry and reactions, perhaps including behaviors, that weren’t there before.
How best to support a family living with Alzheimer’s?
Many of the strategies you can employ to show support and really be there for an individual who is supporting an Alzheimer’s patient really just boil down to being empathetic and present. However, there are also some more technical skills you can use to really be there for them in a way you may not have considered.
Learn about ALZ
Gaining insight and perspective into the condition and what it brings with it is the first, best step in working to support families and individuals who has Alzheimer’s in the family. Some places where you can gain credible information about the disease are:
- The Alzheimer’s Organization
- The National Institute on Aging
- Alzheimer’s.Gov (U.S. Department of Health and Social Services)
Know where to find resources
Supportive resources are critical, whether it be educational articles, shared personal experiences, support groups or finding alzheimers home care. The more that can be learned and shared, the more we can support. Here are some wonderful resources:
- U.S Department of Veteran’s Affairs – Complete with support line telephone number – 1-855-260-3274 (toll free)
- Memory People – Facebook support group
- ElderCare Locator – Public service listings provided by the U.S. Administration on Aging
- The Alzheimer’s Association – Support groups and events that you can filter by zip code. Also including online events.
Be patient and kind
Kindness, empathy and just listening go a long way. You may not always know what to say, but being present for someone, listening to them and caring about them is a fundamental way that we can all emotionally support someone struggling.
Showing extra patience or acts of kindness, understanding that they’re struggling with something above and beyond, is beneficial in so many ways. It’s not necessarily helping someone take action themselves, but by quietly allowing them to go through what they’re going through, in a non-judgmental way, that is key.
Understand that being a family caregiver takes a toll
Family caregivers have one of the highest stress levels, in that their care, worry and concern is seemingly never-ending. By shifting your own perspective of what they may be going through and the demands placed upon them, it will help you “walk-in-their-shoes”. You may even develop a bit more patience and understanding, which in turn, you can use to support them better.
Demonstrate that you are a part of their support network
By “showing up”, being present, listening to and really truly caring about what they are going through, you are showing them that you care. In addition, if you have experience or are a service person in a field to be able to physically assist (modifications to the home, recommending a financial advisor, doctor or home care professionals, etc.), you’re helping in meaningful ways that you may not even be able to understand.
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is never easy, on the individual or the family, but with a good support system and network or people who care close by, it can be made easier.
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Do you have questions about how you can better support your loved one while they age in place in South Florida or regarding homecare in general? Please contact CareGivers of America here: Contact or call us toll free: 800-342-4197
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