Imagine receiving the gut-wrenching news that your partner, your person, the love of your life has a disease that will rob them—and by extension, you—of their mind, memories, and very personality. Now imagine being told that not only is this affliction the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, but that it also has the unique distinction of being the only member of the top 10 list that cannot be prevented, cured, or even slowed. Sound like a bad dream? Unfortunately, for a growing number of American couples, it’s reality, in the form of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Navigating life after any diagnosis is difficult, but this is especially true with a condition such as Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative disease that affects the patient’s memory, speech, and even personality. This often presents a struggle for family members and loved ones, but with some preparation, some of the stress can be alleviated.
The most important part of being a partner to someone with Alzheimer’s is as simple (and as complicated) as that: to be their partner and to be there for them. Human contact is vital to Alzheimer’s care, to the point where absence of positive interaction can actually cause the disease to progress more rapidly.
Luckily, being there can be as easy as being at home, thanks to home care providers like Home Instead Senior Care. As a leading home care provider with franchises across the globe, Home Instead provides individualized attention in the comfort of home from CAREgiversSM , or healthcare professionals who have completed the company’s pioneering Changing Aging through Research and Education (CARE) program. CAREgiversSM help with everything from meal preparation to accompanying patients to doctor’s appointments, and all on the schedule that works best for the patient and their loved ones.
A striking example of this comes in the story of Mimi and Papa, the affectionate nicknames of a couple from Huntsville, Alabama. After over 50 years of marriage, 3 children, and a handful of grandchildren, Mimi was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Papa refused to give up on their love, choosing to keep her at home with professional caregiving help from Home Instead. Along with personal duties like bathing and brushing her teeth, Papa makes sure to hold her hand and whisper kind words, including the special nickname “Mimi,” to his sweetheart, despite her inability to reciprocate. It’s been more than two years since her diagnosis, and, while many other patients would have succumbed to the disease, his love has allowed their story to continue.
It is also vital to empathize with your loved one. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms, so that you know what is the disease and what is the person, and be ready for what lies ahead. For example, while Alzheimer’s often begins with forgetfulness, as it worsens, many individuals will eventually require help with simple daily tasks such as brushing their teeth and bathing. Home Instead Senior Care can help you lay the groundwork so that a plan is in place before it is needed.
An often-overlooked part of caregiving is taking care of one’s own self. Many of the more than 16 million Americans who provide unpaid care for Alzheimer’s patients report high levels of emotional stress and depression as a result. Gary Chapman, author of the best-selling book The 5 Love Languages and co-author of Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade: The 5 Love Languages and the Alzheimer’s Journey, recommends meeting with a counselor as a couple soon after the diagnosis, so the caregiver can have someone outside the situation who still fully understands it.
Another suggestion is to make time for yourself with help from a Home Instead CAREgiverSM. When they arrive, take the afternoon off and do something you enjoy, with the confidence that your loved one is in good hands, and probably appreciating a break from you, too—after all, you know what they say about too much of a good thing! And if you need longer than an afternoon, Home Instead’s got you covered too, as they can provide 24-hour respite care on a scheduled or as-needed basis.
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be almost as terrifying for the partner as it is for the loved one with the disease, but being there, showing empathy, and taking care of yourself can have a huge impact on the quality of life for both parties. Home Instead Senior Care is happy to be your partner on this long road, as they take their mission “to enhance the lives of aging adults and those who care for them” very seriously, especially for their Alzheimer’s clients and the people who love them. Let them help you with your person’s care. Call toll-free today at 256-883-3080.
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