Are You Uncomfortable Around Someone Who Has Alzheimer’s? 3 Tips to Help

September 22, 2009 at 8:28 pm Leave a comment

Most of us hear the word, “Alzheimer’s” and cringe. We don’t know what to say or do or how to act around someone who has “memory slippage.” My mom had Alzheimer’s and I would watch people’s hesitate when speaking to her. They would try not to talk about current events or try to be “overly nice,” when the best thing to do was for them to just act natural. All the games and activities in the world isn’t as meaningful or does as much for the brain than a simple conversation.

At first, i was a little afraid of Alzheimer’s myself. Was my mom going to say something off the wall? Would she get angry in an instant? Lash out? Become confused? Maybe, but even if she did, I learned that it was okay.

Like most stereotypes, we assume things about Alzheimer’s that may or may not be true, and then we take them to the worst-case scenario. We let our fears and assumptions run wild, and then it paralyzes us–or we avoid the very people we love–and who need us.

It may sound crazy, but two things I’m not afraid of getting is Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Why? Because I’ve seen both diseases up close and personal. I can “do” these diseases. I know that it’s not all bad. I know that with a good attitude, lots of help, the right meds, it’s manageable for the most part. That’s not me being Pollyanna either–I’ve seen the dark side, trust me. But at least I know something about Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and that makes it less scary.

3 Tips to Help Reach Out to Someone with Alzheimer’s:

  • Do take a little thought as to how to approach someone with Alzheimer’s. They can get startled easily. Avoid approaching them from behind or to the side since many elders have vision issues. Realize that some people don’t like to be touched, so take it easy if you don’t know them well. If they like it, then be sure to include a hug or pat on the arm or hand, but get to know them first.
  • Ask questions that give a choice. Do you like cake or pie? Even if they don’t answer, it leads into a conversion. “I prefer pie. I really like Pecan Pie–my mother used to make the best.” This gives them a chance to respond. Be sure to compliment them, ask their opinion about something. Most us like to people watch–so if you’re out shopping or to dinner, use the time to talk about what’s going on around you.
  • Be willing to listen to them for a while. Elders are like young children–you really can’t rush them. This is a good thing! Just forget about what all you have to do and simply relax. It’s nice to spend a half hour just sitting beside someone and enjoying the afternoon. Don’t feel the need to fill up every minute with talk.

Most of what scares us is the unknown. You may have to talk yourself into spending time with someone who has Alzheimer’s, and at first, you may be a bit uncomfortable–but over time, you’ll realize that spending time with someone who needs your company can be a pleasure and a priviledge.

Entry filed under: caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , , , , .

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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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