Talking to Someone at Different Stages of Alzheimer's
It's difficult to think of the “right things” to say when learning that someone close has Alzheimer's. But, there are a few things to remember when dealing with a potentially awkward and sensitive conversation about Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s affects as many as 5.4 million people in the U.S. alone. Alzheimer’s and other diseases that cause dementia are considered to be progressive disorders that slowly nip away at a person’s brain until their memories, ability to talk and independence disappear.
For family and friends who are dealing with someone with Alzheimer’s, they know that it is not for the faint of heart. Families needs to build themselves a shield to protect their heart as the disease progresses. Like many diseases out there, Alzheimer’s affects everyone differently. The disease can either progress quickly or slowly, and while some medication and other cognitive activities may work for them, some may not. Regardless of how fast or slow the progression is, the patient will eventually lose that little filter in their brains that knows what is right and wrong to say.
This, and watching a loved one struggle to maintain their independence and who they are, can be hard for family and friends. There are thankfully plenty of resources and support groups out there for those who care for Alzheimer’s patients.
Reactions to early stages of Alzheimer’s
The early stage of Alzheimer’s is certainly the easiest stage to hide from the outside world. Some patients find that they are still fine to live alone and even work or drive. Early signs may include trouble concentrating, difficulty retaining information, and trouble with planning or organizing.
This is the most awkward time to talk about the disease. It’s hard to imagine what to say if someone announces they are battling Alzheimer's. Especially if that person looks and acts “normal”.
This is not the time to look at them with pity and ask things like “has it affected your memory yet?” This is the time to offer a hug, a shoulder to cry on and tell them honestly that they can reach out for anything at any time.
Remember that the person who is dealing with the disease is basically setting the stage, letting those who know them that a few seemingly simple things might slip their mind. They also may be letting others know that they might not be as as they once were and that the change is coming, and it might come fast.
This is the time to keep things normal. Don’t exclude them from the weekly meetup or a weekend at the cottage or book club. All of these activities, and so much more, are great for Alzheimer’s patients. Being social plays a big role in helping to slow the progression of the disease.