Helping Families & Friends to Understand Alzheimers Dementia
Dementia is a characteristic symptom resulting from a decline in intellectual function, including memory, language, decision-making, and thinking abilities. Dementia itself is not a "disease" but a group of symptoms that arise from a specific condition, such as Alzheimer's disease. Dementia is a condition that affects many older adults, with a prevalence of 98% among individuals over the age of 65.
When you realize that a loved one is experiencing Alzheimer's disease, commonly known as senility, you may face the question: when and how should you inform your family and relatives? Concerns about their response to this information present their own challenges, but with the right approach, family and friends can support each other, especially in caring for a family member with Alzheimer's.
There is no one-size-fits-all method to explain Alzheimer's disease. When you feel the time is right, that's when honest and open communication can take place. Use this opportunity to explain what Alzheimer's is using the following approaches:
- Communicate with your family and friends about what Alzheimer's disease is and how it affects memory, thinking, and habits.
- Share interesting articles about Alzheimer's that you can find on the internet.
- Let them know what they can do to help those with Alzheimer's, such as finding healthcare professionals, providing meals, and adapting the family's lifestyle.
When a family member suffers from Alzheimer's, it affects the people around them, especially those who interact with them the most. Therefore, communicating with your spouse, children, and grandchildren can help you better understand their condition.
Here are some ways to help your family or friends understand how to interact with a family member with Alzheimer's:
- Help your family and friends convey information that a person with Alzheimer's can understand.
- Initiate communication with someone with Alzheimer's using a warm greeting, making eye contact, and introducing yourself, such as saying, "Hello, Andi. I'm Sekar. We were school friends."
- Avoid communication that seems to correct or challenge the memory of someone with Alzheimer's when they make mistakes. Instead of correcting them, try to understand the feelings they are experiencing.
- Engage in enjoyable activities like playing games and gathering with family and friends. If distance makes it difficult to meet, video calls are a good way to stay connected with them. Engaging in activities that stimulate past memories, such as looking at photo albums, can be very helpful for family members with Alzheimer's.
Here are some things that families and relatives should consider when communicating with individuals who have Alzheimer's:
- Communicate and visit in person or via video call when the patient with Alzheimer's is in the best condition.
- Stay calm and use a gentle tone of voice. Avoid shouting or raising your voice when communicating with them.
- Respect their privacy. Maintain a comfortable distance in communication and don't try to force familiarity.
- Use a two-way approach to communication. Be patient when they struggle to find words or express their opinions.
- Don't easily get offended or disappointed when they don't remember you or become confused.
Dealing with individuals with Alzheimer's, especially when they are our loved ones, is not easy. However, with good communication and patience to understand their condition, we can find the strength to care for and support them, just as they took care of us when we were young. It's likely that they will become confused and forget who they are communicating with, especially in advanced stages of Alzheimer's, but that doesn't make the effort futile. Being there in their most difficult moments and becoming a memory, even if only for a brief moment, is meaningful.