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Advice to Alzheimer’s caregivers

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is especially difficult. You’re likely presented with situations that you don’t always know how to handle, such as when the person you care for loses his or her temper. The Huffington Post recently published an insightful and touching piece by Marie Marley, a woman who spent seven years caring for her partner suffering from Alzheimer’s. Marley reflects on her time as a caregiver a bit regretfully, but offers forth what she learned from her experience to all other Alzheimer’s caregivers:

  • Don’t lose your temper. If the Alzheimer’s patient you care for gets angry and yells, don’t yell back. It won’t solve anything, and will only increase tension. Marley said her partner, Dr. Edward Theodoru, had a temper, which his dementia escalated. When he got angry and yelled at her (which was often), Marley yelled back, creating a vicious cycle.
  • Don’t correct your patient or loved one over things that don’t really matter. When you correct someone with Alzheimer’s for asserting something that isn’t true, you’ll probably just hurt and confuse them. Marley said she did this often. One example was when Theodoru told her he talked to his father the previous evening; she insisted that he hadn’t because his father was dead. Of course, this upset Theodoru greatly.
  • Don’t badger them to remember things. Frequently asking someone with Alzheimer’s if he or she remembers something they did or a person they met will likely only remind them of their diminished capacity.

As an Alzheimer’s caregiver, Marley says one of the most important things you can do is exercise extra sensitivity and be more thoughtful. Rather than arguing, change the subject – doing so will lead to a better outcome than engaging in a heated bickering match. And rather than correcting mistakes, agree with what they say unless there’s a strong reason not to. Marley said changing her behaviour allowed her to feel closer to her partner again and helped him feel more relaxed and content.

Read the full article here: Confessions of a worn-out Alzheimer’s caregiver.

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