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September 09, 2022

Living with Alzheimer's: Impact on the Individual and the Family

Written By: Lindsay Green
Home Instead CAREGiver and senior looking at mail

Living with Alzheimer's: Impact on the Individual and the Family

So many emotions surround receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer's and dementia. There is a sense of relief that you finally have an official diagnosis. While at the same time, the uncertainty that comes with living with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia may cause you to feel stressed, anxious, sad, and a bit overwhelmed.

Taking the time to learn about how Alzheimer's or dementia impacts both the individual and the family can help you prepare for the future. When you know what to expect, or possibly expect, you can create strategies that help your loved one and the entire family live the best life possible.

Alzheimer's and Dementia aren't the Same for Everyone

Alzheimer's and dementia are unpredictable diseases. No two people will have the same experience with Alzheimer's and dementia. Everything from the progression of the disease to the symptoms that are present or how cognition is impacted will vary from individual to individual.

Given the unpredictable nature of Alzheimer's and dementia, you can never fully prepare for what will happen or how the disease will impact your loved one or family. However, that doesn't mean you can't prepare at all. It just means you must be prepared for the unexpected.

Below are the some of the most common examples of how Alzheimer's and dementia impact the life of the individual and the family. The impact Alzheimer's has on the life of your loved one and the family will vary drastically. You may only experience some of the changes and challenges, or you may experience them all.

Example #1: Changes and Challenges with Communication

The changes in the brain that are caused by Alzheimer's can make it difficult to communicate. How Alzheimer's affects communication varies from person to person. Some individuals may struggle with verbalization and be unable to describe what they are thinking/feeling, while others may have difficulty understanding or interpreting non-verbal forms of communication. Other problems that can occur include being unable to find appropriate words and difficulty carrying a conversation on due to memory or inability to follow a conversation.

Difficulties with communication are not only frustrating for your loved one with Alzheimer's, but it is frustrating for everyone from caregivers to family and friends. It is important that you understand that misunderstandings can, and will happen. Changing how you approach communicating with a loved one with Alzheimer's can help you to avoid misunderstandings.

Some examples of communication changes you can try include:

  • Make eye contact when speaking with your loved one
  • Use their name a lot in conversation - try to naturally fit the name into the conversation 
  • Avoid overly complex or long sentences - keep things short 
  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues and communication - make sure non-verbal cues and communication match what you are trying to communicate 
  • Enhance the conversation by encouraging non-verbal cues such as touching your loved one's arm or taking a walk while talking 
  • Focus on feelings and emotions and not on words - the words a loved one with Alzheimer's uses may not match up with how they are acting or feeling
  • Avoid asking open-ended questions that require your loved one to think critically 

Example #2: Changes and Challenges with Personal Care and Other Activities

Alzheimer's can make it difficult for an individual to perform certain tasks and activities such as bathing, showering, and dressing. At first, your loved one may struggle to complete these types of tasks or just need basic assistance. As the disease progresses, they may lack the cognitive or physical ability to complete the task at all.

When these personal care tasks and activities become difficult, family members may step in and provide assistance. The level of assistance that is needed will vary depending upon your loved one's ability and can range from basic prompting to having to perform the entire task for your family member.

Helping a senior or aging adult perform personal care tasks and activities can be challenging. Your loved one may feel embarrassed or frustrated that they can't do these tasks on their own. You personally may be unable or uncomfortable helping with extremely personal tasks such as bathing, showering or toileting. To help reduce the amount of pressure placed on you as well as help limit your loved one’s frustration while also preserving their dignity, there are many in-home care solutions to explore.

Home Instead Merrillville, IN connects families with experienced caregivers who can provide assistance with a number of personal care tasks and activities. Whether you just need a personal break from providing care for a loved one or you are finding it difficult to assist with extremely personal tasks such as bathing or showering, the Care Professionals at Home Instead will be there to help.

Example #3: Changes in Personality and Behaviors

Drastic changes to your loved one's personality or how they act occur as Alzheimer's progresses. An individual who was once very caring, loving, and sympathetic may suddenly become angry, aggressive, and self-centered. Family and friends may find it difficult to accept these changes or find it difficult to interact with their loved one as they no longer act like the person they once knew.

What makes changes in personality and behaviors even more challenging with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia is that how your loved one acts is very inconsistent. Some days you may notice no changes to personality or behavior, while other days are worse. Family and friends often do not know what to expect, which can make interacting with an individual with Alzheimer's difficult.

Unfortunately, there is no way to stop Alzheimer's or dementia from causing changes to your loved one's personality or behaviors. However, making sure your loved one feels safe and secure can sometimes help to prevent some changes in behavior and personality.

Some examples of things you can do to make a loved one with Alzheimer's feel safe and secure include:

  • Create a consistent daily routine - create a schedule for meals, medications and other activities 
  • Keeping things familiar - avoid making sudden or drastic changes to the home or decor 
  • Keep things simple - avoid completing too many tasks at once. Take things one at a time
  • Avoid showing frustration, anger and stress 
  • Use distractions - when a loved one starts to seem stressed or frustrated using distractions such as music or another type of task can help 
  • Follow a set routine for bedtime 

Creating and keeping a routine can be difficult when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's. The caregivers at Home Instead can help you keep your loved one's routine consistent by providing experienced Care Pros who can provide assistance when you need it most. Whether you have a scheduling conflict or just want to take a personal day, the in-home caregivers can make sure that your loved one's schedule and routine doesn't change.

Personality and behavior changes can make it difficult for full-time family caregivers. They may feel overwhelmed or the changes their loved one is experiencing are causing conflict. The caregivers at Home Instead can help by providing family caregivers with an opportunity to take a break and unwind or destress. When working with Home Instead Merrillville, IN, a customized service plan is created to best align with the needs of you and your family. The experienced Care Pros at Home Instead will make sure your loved one is well-cared for, while you are able to take time to make sure your own emotional needs are being met.

Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia will impact all aspects of your loved one's and your family's life. Everything from how you interact with each other to the tasks and activities you do together will be different. However, that doesn't mean that your loved one or your family won't be able to enjoy life with some adjustments.

While life and the impact of it may be different than in the past, Home Instead Merrillville, IN is here to support you and your family. Contact Home Instead at (219) 793-9023 to learn more about how our Care Professionals can help improve the quality of life for you or a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia.