With aging, the entire person is affected when one component whether: Physical, financial, cognitive, or psycholosocial of an older adult's life is impaired. Individuals with Dementia or Alzheimer's disease and their families often present with a complicated variety of needs of which we need to be sensitive to. Dementia and other forms of confusion and memory loss are very common as we get older. This can be a very difficult and frustrating time for family such as spouses, children and grand children. It is very difficult to see someone who you had lived your life with not remember who you are or even who they are at times. An intergral approach with the perspective of the family and individual is crucial to the over all success in an approrpiate care plan for these situations.
Dementia is a chronic or persistant disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning. Alzheimer's Disease is another common complication we deal with in the community as well. Alzheimer's is a degenerative brain disease involving progressing memort loss, imparied thinking, disorientation and changes to personality or mood.
Situations like these can be filled with repetetive talk and conversations and often lead to premature caregiver burn out especially from an emotional stand point. You lose the mental connection you had; you slowly watch someone you thought you knew become someone else. And, unfortuantely this can take a long time to adapt to; having to relate to your loved one in a different and new way.
Some things we have learned while caring for families of and individuals with forms of Dementia and or Alzhiemer's Disease:
1 - Learn to embrace the moments your loved on is their old self (even for short moments): As they may have undergone personality changes and these are naturally what we focus on there are generally small traits and similarities that remain that you may pick up on. Try and pay attention for these moments and cues as it can help maintain a sense of connection.
2 - Noticing the small moments: If you are paying attention to your loved one during activities you will often find subtle cues of relaxation and enjoyment. This can come in many forms ex. a laugh, gestured comment, maybe they start to dance along to some music etc. Seeing this fun and enjoyment in your loved one bringing out their old character even if for a brief moment can help to over come these daily emotional challenges.
3 - Finding support groups: Today as this is a common scenario, there are many different support groups available to families dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer's or a form od Dementia. These groups have experience and understanding individuals that can provide the emotional support required but also new strategies that you can try to incorporate into your own life.
4 - Learn to understand your loved one through their illness: Something that will take time, however, taking the time to understand them. Taking the time to work with new experssional cues and body language related to joyful or complicating moments for your loved one can help to develop a new deeper connection with them through this life changing time.