10 Things people with Alzheimer’s want you to know

Be aware of these things if someone close to you is suffering from Alzheimer’s

Memory loss can be scary, but patience, trust and encouragement can help someone with this disease continue to live a meaningful life. One of the first things that comes to mind when you think about Alzheimer’s is memory loss. But there is so much more to this condition that healthcare providers, loved ones and people who have just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s should know. There are a number of important facts and misconceptions about the disease.

Each stage of Alzheimer’s disease is unique

You might assume that someone with Alzheimer’s can’t engage in a conversation, but that’s not the case. “Those in the early stages have memory problems that make it easy to get lost or forget conversations, while personality changes or agitation might show up during the middle stages,” explains Mary Mittelman, director of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias. When the late stage hits, the patient may have difficulty dressing or eating. “Symptoms of Alzheimer’s change over time,” says Dr. Mittelman.

Life is still fairly normal in the early stages

“I lead a largely normal life, but there are specific areas where I rely on a planner or alarm clock or smartphone,” said Eric Thompson, advisor to the Early-Stage Advisory Group for the Alzheimer’s Association. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about four years ago, he had to retire, and he made a few changes to his routine. For example, he finishes his checklist of daily chores early in the morning, so that he does not forget them. However, Eric says people are shocked by how well he remembers conversations.

Things are not forgotten on purpose

You may be annoyed that you have to repeat yourself to someone with Alzheimer’s, but don’t let your impatience get the better of you. Instead, simplify the way you say things so that your words are more likely to stick.

Reminding someone that their loved ones have died is terrible

When someone with Alzheimer’s asks about a deceased loved one, don’t cause unnecessary heartbreak by saying that the person has passed away. Instead, offer to take the person on a walk to find that person, says Jackie Pinkowitz, president of the Dementia Action Alliance. “You can’t expect that person to kind of come back into where you’re at, but you can be nice and kind of be where they are”, said Pinkowitz, who cared for her mother and father-in-law, both of whom had dementia.  “Share the moment, but be willing to kind of go into their world a little.”

Socializing is important

Those suffering from Alzheimer’s should not be urged to stay at home, especially in the early stages when they have only mild cognitive impairment. In fact, it is good to spend time with friends and family. “Unfortunately, some family members just disable them more rather than enabling them and encouraging them to be involved,” Pinkowitz says.

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