Caring for a Spouse with Alzheimer’s Disease
Watching a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and fall into dementia is never easy. Nobody wants to see someone they care about go from a functional, mentally competent human being to someone who can no longer remember the names and faces of those closest to them and who are too demented to even know what’s going on around them. Most people imagine Alzheimer’s care as between a parent and a child, but a relationship that is just as important for all involved is the one that exists between spouses. An Alzheimer patient’s spouse will most likely be the first person to see the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and be the one in the best position to provide the most care. Caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s is never easy, but it is very important. It helps to comfort the patient and keep him or her somewhat grounded in the present even if it isn’t a cure.
If you have a spouse who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or a similar affliction, here are some things that can help you provide the best possible care.
The Early Stages
Care in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease is just as important as it is for later stages. Many people who are experiencing the early stages of the disease are still functional and active, and others may not realize that they have any dementia at all. However, chances are that a spouse will notice changes such as a decreased ability to think and learn or difficulty remembering appointments and important dates. It’s important to watch for these signs of dementia since they may not be apparent to anybody else. Offer to provide help keeping track of appointments, managing money or performing familiar tasks when you think your spouse needs the extra help. Remember to provide emotional support as well, since this will no doubt be frustrating for your spouse. Above all else, be patient. Your spouse won’t be able to help what’s happening, so it won’t do you any good to get upset.
Because Alzheimer’s is irreversible and degenerative, things will most likely get worse as time goes on. Your spouse will start to forget things that were once very important to him or her such as dates, people and names. It will be very discouraging for both you and your spouse. Just remember to always be patient, keep a close eye on your spouse if things get especially bad and never stop communicating. The communication will keep your spouse grounded in the present.
The most important thing to remember about caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease is that you should never be afraid to ask for help when you need it. If caring for your spouse becomes too difficult for you, you can always hire a nurse or a home health aide for some help. You should also never be afraid to seek out help for yourself. Being a caregiver can take a psychological toll on a person, and there’s no shame in seeking professional help for yourself if things get particularly difficult.
By Richard Dorrough