If your parent or grandparent has Alzheimer’s, you are likely very aware of the daily struggles that not only he or she faces but that your family is also forced to face. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s is very widespread. With 1 in 10 individuals aged 65 and older projected to get the disease, many seniors end up dealing with it in their later years (Alzheimer’s Association, 2020). Alzheimer’s makes daily living activities challenging for the senior; so much so they may no longer be able to live alone and will depend on help from a family member, in-home senior care service or a memory care community.
With that being said, if you are the sole caregiver of your aging loved one who is dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia, you may be finding it hard to connect with him or her. You may not know the right things to do or say that will ensure their happiness, comfort and health. If this sounds like something you’re struggling with, this post will briefly detail some ways you can connect with your beloved family member in meaningful ways.
What Family Caregivers Need to Know About Connection and Alzheimer’s
As your loved one ages with Alzheimer’s, it’s important that you prepare yourself for the road ahead. You should know there will be some challenges, but with the proper resources and support, caregiving and connecting with your loved one will be easier to face and manage. Here are some things to keep in mind when connecting with your loved one.
Some Quick Communication Pointers
The goal here is to make communicating with your loved one easier. There are certain phrases you should avoid, and helpful tactics to employ. The more you know, the better support you will be able to provide. Here are some quick pointers that will help you communicate with your family member in a way that acknowledges their new reality:
- Do your best to avoid getting visibly frustrated
- Use names; call your loved one by his or her name and introduce yourself often
- Keep conversations simple and short
- Speak slowly but not in an insulting or condescending manner
- Use repetition as much as possible
- Think of different ways to say the same thing
- Use closed-ended questions; for example, “Did you enjoy the smoothie you had for breakfast?” instead of, “What did you eat for breakfast?”
- Make eye contact and use body language
Know What You Need to Avoid
It is also important that you are aware of some things you should avoid when it comes to communicating with your loved one that is dealing with Alzheimer’s. Below is a short list of some things to try your best NOT to do:
- Saying things like: “Do you remember?” or “Try to remember”
- Using slang and unfamiliar words
- Using patronizing language or “baby talk”
- Using sarcasm
- Talking in front of your loved one as if he or she is not there
- Yelling when you become frustrated
Though some days it may be difficult, it’s important you try your best to avoid these things to keep your loved one as happy and calm as possible. The last thing you want to do is humiliate or make them feel upset.
Create Daily Routines
Daily routines are a phenomenal help when connecting with your loved one. Daily routines will make Alzheimer’s care run more smoothly. Here are some tips to help you create daily routines:
- Make mealtimes the same every day
- Plan spending time outdoors every day, around the same time if possible
- Plan frequent visitors if possible and try to schedule them at a time when your loved one can best handle them (many individuals become more agitated in the evenings)
- Choose activities that will not be overwhelming
- Consider outside group activities such as adult day care programs or senior outings at your community center
- Try to choose activities that incorporate your loved one’s interests
Continue to Do Your Very Best
Though Alzheimer’s is an extremely taxing and overwhelming illness to provide care for, it’s important that you only strive to do your very best with the resources you have available to you. The coronavirus pandemic has presented its own challenges, and with prolonged isolation and disruption to daily routines you may see worsening symptoms of dementia. However, the “rules” of engaging with your loved one remain the same.
Some days will be easier than others and you should be easy on yourself – you are making the life of your loved one as enjoyable as possible given the circumstances. Keep these tips in mind to continue providing the quality of care your family member needs and deserves. If you find that it has become too challenging to provide this care on your own, consider a Memory Care Assisted Living Community or hiring in-home services.