Connecting with your loved one who has Alzheimer’s Disease
Learning that a loved one has Alzheimer’s Disease can be feel sad and worrisome. It can leave you with a lot of questions, like “will he remember me?” or “will she and I still connect like we used to?” Your loved one needs your compassion and your companionship more than ever right now. He or she is probably feeling scared and worried too.
Visits are a great way to help your loved one. By visiting you offer emotional comfort and security. You remind them that some things are still normal in a reality that may be feeling unfamiliar, stressful and confusing. Plus, you can bring laughter and help stir memories.
Sure, there may be moments that feel a little awkward or uncomfortable. But that doesn’t matter to your loved one. This is a social situation where you don’t have to worry about social nuances or intricacies. It’s okay if you’re not sure you know what to say. Just bring yourself.
Your company is the very best thing you could offer in this situation. Consider these ideas as you prepare for your visit.
The healing power of laughter
Try to think of stories, songs or jokes that you’ve always enjoyed with your loved one. Make a mental list of these, and work them in during your visit. Give your loved one the chance to join you in remembering the names of former teachers, friends and family members. Talk about details and locations that were once important to you and your friends and family members.
Talk about the old days. Depending on what stage of the illness your loved one is currently experiencing, you’ll be surprised to see how acute old memories can be. You’ll be surprised if you start signing an old song, for example, how quick your loved one is to join in.
Laughter, song and memory have healing powers; share that with your loved one. It stands to transport you both to a simpler time.
Bring the kids
It’s a good thing to invite your children to visit aging family members. It feels good for your loved one to be around children. Their presence ushers in fresh energy that can be fun and lively. Being in the company of children also stands to stir memories. People relate to children and remember when their own kids look and behaved similarly.
Visiting aging relatives is also good for the kids. It teaches them compassion and demonstrates how to be comfortable with people at various stages in life. If the kids are school age, give them a quick overview of what Alzheimer’s Disease entails, so they know what to expect. Also, don’t overstay. If you’re bringing kids, just pop by for a quick 45-minute visit. It will do a lot of good without becoming too taxing for those on either side of the equation.
Embrace the new reality
Recognize that you may not have a linear conversation. Your loved one may forget details about their location or the timeframe. Don’t worry about those or try to strong arm your loved one into understanding those basics. Work with the details they do understand. Shape your conversations around what they seem to grasp and what excites them.
Your role is, simply, to raise your loved one’s spirits, so do that by enjoying his or her company. It may feel a little awkward at times, but you’ll also have moments where you feel that familiar old connection. That makes it worth it on both sides.