There will be good times and bad times - the outcome all depends on how you react. Making light of the situation is the best thing you can do for them and for yourself. Managing the personality and behavior changes is when it gets difficult because their mood can change within an instant (and usually when you least expect it).
At times, it can be extremely tough to take care of someone who has Alzheimer's - but either way it is a true, eye opening experience. This can happen to anyone, including you and that's the thing I think about on a daily basis. I constantly ask myself what if this were me? What if this were my loved one? I could only hope that the person helping me would be genuine and caring enough to make me feel safe. Although Alzheimer's is a difficult disease there have been amazing things that I have learned from those who have it.
Through the darkness of confusion...there is light.
1) THEY ARE US
"The person they were before the disease is the person they deserve to be with the disease." No matter how bad it gets for the loved ones, and caregivers, there will be times you will come across moments that surprise you. The intricate facts that they tell you, or sayings that have somehow stuck in their minds - these are the things that will make you pause and realize how much they are impacting your life just as much as you are theirs.
2) LOVE IS LOVE
"Everyone responds to love." Their sense of love and compassion is extraordinary - especially towards each other. Of course there are moments where they get aggressive or agitated, but the times where they're expressing love are like no other. I have experienced on many occasions my residents with Alzheimer's helping one another out - if they seem down and out for some reason they are so worried about why their friend is feeling this way. If they see their friend in a wheelchair coming down the hallway they go up behind them and start pushing them to help out. They all love love and they are constantly showing affection.
3) THEY ARE EXTREMELY AWARE
"Dementia doesn't mean a loss of intelligence, just bad wiring." Their sense of awareness is something that has intrigued me the most. They pick up on simple cues (depending the extremity of their Alzheimer's) and can feel the mood that is being expressed around them. A lot of them are aware, at some point of the day, about what's happening to them and their memory loss - that's when complete fear and sadness strike. The most interesting part about them having this moment of realization is that they always apologize for being a "burden" or a "pain". Even though they didn't choose to have this disease, they still feel it's necessary to apologize to those around them for having it.
Even though they are extremely aware there are times when they are not. Imagine this - within an instant your short term memory is completely wiped, all you remember is needing to get home for dinner or else your mom will be freaking out wondering where you are. In reality you are actually 90 years old and your mom has been dead for many many years, but for that moment in time you are transported back to being a 12 year old girl...even while looking at your aged hands. The mind is playing tricks with you, but at the end of the day your sense of love (in wanting to receive it, and give it) is so strong and is something that does not need to be taught.
4) THEIR HUMOR IS LIKE NO OTHER
I can't even begin to express how much I laugh on a daily basis because of their witty, random, wise humor - nothing is off limits for them in terms of what they say...and I mean NOTHING. Their sense of humor has been something that has not dimmed even throughout the darkest times of this disease. Their jokes have been the ray of sunshine in my days and there truly is never a dull moment when I'm with them.
5) THEY CAN STILL FIND ENJOYMENT AND A SENSE OF CALM
"The disease lets you live in the moment." In the right environment, a lot is possible. It is amazing to see how things such as music, pets and children impact them. During that moment of instant panic, when they realize what's happening to them, they can instantly be redirected depending on what calms them down the most. They can go from freaking out to being completely calm and not even remembering what outburst they just had. There are a lot of people out there who automatically think that Alzheimer's just means sadness/depression, and an end to someone's life - I can see why some may think that but that is not true. The person is still living, but now they're living differently and it is our job to make the situation as positive as possible with the cards that they have been given. I have seen enjoyment in their eyes, it's still there and still within reach.
Do you know someone whose been affected by Alzheimer's?
Do you agree that you've learned these things about them as well?