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10 Ways to Support a Loved One Facing Alzheimer's Disease

Written By: William Rivers
Reviewed By: William Rivers
Published: December 13, 2023

Alzheimer's disease is a neurological condition that can be challenging and progressive. It affects not only the individual diagnosed with it, but also the lives of their family and friends.

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's requires a unique set of skills, patience, and understanding because the condition can significantly alter relationships and daily routines. 

If you find yourself facing the prospect of supporting a loved one battling Alzheimer's disease, we hope you will find this post a helpful resource. It outlines ten practical and compassionate ways you can do so.

Some of the things we will cover include creating a dementia-friendly home environment, fostering emotional connections and providing several insights that blend empathy with practicality. 

By offering this comprehensive guide, we hope to enhance the quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer's and their devoted loved ones and caregivers.

1. Educate Yourself About Alzheimer's Disease

One of the best ways you can help support a loved one facing Alzheimer's disease is to really take the time to educate yourself about this debilitating condition.

Try to find the time to study as much about the intricacies of the disease as you can. In particular, read up about its early symptoms, progressive stages and impact on the brain. You should also learn about available treatments, therapeutic interventions and the various coping mechanisms you can adopt to make the condition more bearable. 

There are many reputable books, websites and support groups you can access that offer valuable insights into the condition. These resources can also equip you with the tools and knowledge to anticipate some of the challenges you might face and respond with empathy and informed decision-making if and when they do arise.

2. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

Although Alzheimer's causes cognitive challenges, maintaining the physical health of the sufferer is also crucial. That is because a healthy lifestyle can not only support cognitive function but also help manage some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's.

Encourage them to adopt a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious meals, engaging in regular exercise that suits their abilities and ensuring they get plenty of sleep. Physical activity and a balanced diet can positively affect their mood and energy levels, so you should see some benefit from doing this.

At the same time, it is also worth trying them out with medical nutrition products such as Souvenaid Liquid, which nutritionally assists the memory function of those diagnosed with early Alzheimer's disease.

3. Encourage Early Diagnosis and Treatment

If you suspect a loved one might have succumbed to Alzheimer's disease, it is important to seek as early a diagnosis as you can. In such circumstances, time is of the essence, as an early diagnosis helps in understanding the nature and progression of the disease and also provides timely opportunities for interventions.

Try to get your loved one to seek medical attention as soon as you notice them struggling to find the right words, experience vision and spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgement. If they feel comfortable enough for you to do so, go to the appointment with them.

Ultimately, early diagnosis allows for the implementation of customised treatment plans that may help slow the progression of Alzheimer's symptoms. It also provides a window of opportunity to enhance their overall quality of life.

4. Create a Supportive Environment at Home

If a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, it is important to make their home environment as comfortable as possible. Thankfully, you can significantly enhance their overall safety, comfort and well-being just by making a few simple yet thoughtful modifications. 

Some recommended courses of action to take include removing potential hazards, installing handrails in key areas and using clear labels to identify rooms, objects and potential dangers, such as hot ovens or kitchen appliances.

At the end of the day, consistency is key. So trying to maintain a predictable routine will help to instil a sense of familiarity and security. It should also enable your loved one to navigate their daily life with ease, minimise stressors and allow them to maintain a sense of independence for as long as possible. Doing this goes a long way towards contributing to the emotional well-being of both the individual with Alzheimer's and their caregivers - in addition to fostering a safer living space.

5. Effective Communication Strategies

Should you find yourself in a position where you have a loved one suffering from Alzheimer's disease, effectively communicating with them becomes very important.

Firstly, it is crucial to be sensitive, empathetic and adaptable. As the disease progresses, speaking or understanding words may become increasingly difficult for them. So, simplify your language, use clear and concise sentences, and be patient in waiting for their comprehension and response. Also, do not interrupt or argue with them when they are trying to speak, as it could lead to frustration on their part. Instead, validate their feelings and provide reassurance.

At the same time, non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and gestures become vital. Therefore, make sure you maintain eye contact to establish a stronger connection.

6. Engage in Meaningful Activities

For people living with Alzheimer's disease, engaging in meaningful activities can significantly improve the quality of life for both them and their caregivers.

 For this reason, partaking in activities like puzzles, art, music, or simple exercise is essential as they provide them with cognitive stimulation, evoke positive emotions and contribute to a sense of accomplishment.

Furthermore, these meaningful engagements have the knock-on effect of preserving aspects of their identity and individuality.

7. Seek Professional Support

Supporting a loved one who is facing Alzheimer's disease is not a challenge you need to take on solely yourself. There are plenty of professional services available. So, don't be afraid to reach out to them for help.

Alzheimer's presents unique challenges at every stage, which often require specialised approaches beyond what family members can provide on their own. Professional support, such as the expertise of home health aides, the structure and enrichment offered by adult day care programs, or the emotional solace found in caregiver support groups, can be a godsend.

Moreover, by regularly consulting with healthcare professionals who specialise in Alzheimer's, you ensure that any medical challenges are addressed promptly. 

8. Plan for the Future

Professional support goes beyond healthcare to include legal and financial guidance for future planning. This is important because Alzheimer's is a progressive disease. Subsequently, families may need help to make numerous legal, financial and end-of-life decisions. 

Legal arrangements, such as creating a power of attorney and having open discussions about end-of-life care preferences, are crucial parts of the planning process. Therefore, by proactively addressing these aspects, families can ensure that the individual's wishes are respected while reducing stress and uncertainty for both the person with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. 

Such a forward-thinking approach as this enables families to better manage the demands of the changing landscape of Alzheimer's disease, giving them the ability to provide the best possible care to their loved one while respecting their dignity and autonomy.

9. Take Care of Your Own Well-being

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's can be an emotionally and physically challenging journey. But while the focus on providing exceptional care will naturally focus on the sufferer, caregivers must prioritise their own sense of well-being, too.

The toll of caregiving can be a heavy cross to bear. However, neglecting one's health can seriously compromise the ability to offer effective support to your loved one. Subsequently, to prevent burnout, caregivers should take breaks when needed, seek help from friends or family, and explore respite care options.

At the same time, caregivers should also consider joining support groups or seeking counselling to navigate the emotional challenges that often accompany Alzheimer's caregiving. Most importantly, you should recognise that self-care is not selfish but necessary to be effective in your caregiving role. After all, those caregivers who prioritise their well-being can provide more patient, compassionate and effective care for their loved ones.

10. Foster Emotional Connection

Caregiving for someone with Alzheimer's can be a complex task, especially as their cognitive abilities decline. However, even as verbal communication becomes difficult, it's essential to maintain emotional connections.

Emotional connections are vital for the individual's well-being, providing comfort, security, and joy. So, expressing affection through touch, eye contact, and non-verbal cues is crucial. Activities that evoke positive emotions and memories, such as reminiscing about shared experiences or listening to familiar music, can also help.

Ultimately, by creating a space for emotional intimacy, caregivers can reinforce the deep bond that exists between them and their loved ones.

Conclusion

Coping with a loved one suffering from Alzheimer's disease can be very tough, requiring a comprehensive approach that includes education, empathy and practical strategies. However, by taking steps to gain knowledge about the disease, creating a supportive environment and seeking professional help, you will go a long way towards making a significant positive impact on the well-being of your loved one.

It is also vitally important to prioritize your own well-being and cherish the emotional connections that remain even as cognitive abilities decline. At the end of the day, looking after a loved one with Alzheimer's is a challenging proposition. Still, with the right support and care, individuals and their families can face the journey with resilience and grace.

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William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.
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