Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia; it destroys brain cells, causing memory loss and problems with thinking and behavior. This debilitating condition causes its victims to have difficulty recognizing close relatives–even their own children. The condition can be a devastating reality when a loved one is diagnosed with it. Watching a family member exist with Alzheimer’s disease is very difficult. It becomes even more difficult when you view the hopeless look on the face and in the eyes of an individual suffering from this disease. Although some cases are more advanced than others, the common ground for the disease is that it leaves families struggling to cope.
It is very difficult for family members to watch their loved ones in the state of existence that Alzheimer’s disease brings on, but every effort should be made to be present and supportive. While the ailment gradually destroys brain cells, victims develop a feeling of abandonment, which sometimes leads to behavioral problems. These individuals instinctively know when loved ones have ceased to be a part of their lives. Sometimes the depression from that feeling is expressed through anxiety attacks and rages. The behavioral problems put more stress on the victim’s heart and could even lead to heart attack or stroke.
I have observed that people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease tend to hold on to religious beliefs. My recommendation for anyone who is struggling to deal with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s is–take a trip to a nursing home or elderly care facility. You will be enlightened, and filled with a desire to reach out, reconnect and support your loved one.
If you are struggling to deal with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, develop a relationship based on who the person is now, then you can enjoy the time you have to spend together. Accept the fact that the life change an Alzheimer victim is experiencing is not by choice, but you can choose to stick by that person. Start where you are, because just being present on a regular basis could spark a memory of happier times–or at least a feeling of companionship. Use the random information that you hear during your visits as a basis to spark conversation, and to create a relationship. Keep listening and talking; before long the random chat might bring your loved one to a point where he or she recalls events that will bind your relationship; accept that as progress. On the next visit and all future visits, be prepared to restart the relationship—over and over again.
Family members who avoid visiting loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s are setting themselves up for a future of guilt and regret. Don’t allow yourself to fall victim to those feelings–whether you are recognized or not, you know of what you need to do–grasp the opportunity.