When your parent has Alzheimer’s disease, every member of the family is affected in some way. We all react differently to our grief over losing someone we love, who is still alive, but is no longer the person we once knew. Emotions run the gamut from denial to anger to sadness. Sometimes family members lash out at each other in their frustration and sense of helplessness. We may know on an intellectual level how Alzheimer’s typically affects behavior and personality, but seeing these changes in our loved one can be hard to take.

My mother, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease over a year ago, is in a nursing home and even though it’s the best option for the 24/7 care she needs, it wasn’t an easy decision to make. My mother was only 45 years old when our father passed away 36 years ago. She was a woman who was proud of her independence. Like many families, we had hoped she could live out her years at home or with one of us, but the progression of the disease made that impossible.

My nursing background and years of experience as a care manager give me a perspective that I try to share with my family members when they have trouble coping. Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder and over time it destroys a person’s memory, thinking skills, and ability to perform even the simplest tasks of daily living. When Mom repeats things, doesn’t recognize a family member, says things that aren’t true or gets confused, it’s important for us to understand that these are symptoms of the disease. We have to go into her world, not expect her to come into ours.

Education about the stages of Alzheimer’s helps family members prepare for the personality and behavioral changes that may occur. People with Alzheimer’s can be agitated and aggressive. They may experience sleeplessness, paranoia, delusions and hallucinations. These symptoms are naturally upsetting for family members to witness, but they can be medically treated, so that the person is more comfortable. And, ironically, while we may consider placement in a nursing home to be a loss of independence, the opposite can be true for a person with Alzheimer’s. After a couple of months my mother was functioning better in the nursing home than she had at home. She thrives on the daily routine and the opportunities to socialize. While there are certainly times that we feel robbed – robbed of our mother’s life – we can take comfort that she is, in fact, living her life in a safe environment. It’s up to us to be as positive and accepting as we can.

Do you need help explaining Alzheimer’s or Dementia to your family members? At Senior Transitions, we specialize in helping your whole family understand what is happening and what will happen as the disease progresses. We can help with coping skills, communication, support, and any need you have for your older adult. 

Contact us today at 850-894-6720 or info@gcmsolutions.net to get help. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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