1. Join them in their world.
When Doris Leddy’s mother said she was an Air Force fighter pilot and
was going to receive the Medal of Honor, Doris went along with it. Doris
had learned from a few Alzheimer’s caregiver seminars not to question
her mother’s imagination, which made it easier for her “to just listen
and accept it,” she said. Instead of arguing, Doris and her family took
her mom out for a special dinner and presented her with a Medal of Honor
“Mom was so surprised and so happy that she got up and kissed every
single person in that restaurant,” Doris wrote. Now that her mom’s
Alzheimer’s has progressed, Doris is grateful for that happy memory.
2. Join a support group.
Without the friends Samantha Ducloux Waltz made through support groups,
she’s sure her journey with her husband and his Alzheimer’s would be
much more difficult.
“As my husband Ray’s confusion and anxiety increased, the road
sometimes got so bumpy I felt I couldn’t navigate it without these
people,” she wrote.
Each of her fellow caregiving friends inspired her through their
insightful questions, patience and kindness. Samantha got an
intellectual boost because of Erika, started meditating because of
Marilyn, practiced gratitude more because of Milt.
“I could make this Alzheimer’s journey,” Samantha wrote, “because I had the example and support of these wonderful friends.”
3. Be creative (with your coping strategies).
As his wife’s dementia worsened, Fred Kinsinger created workarounds.
When she lost the ability to read, he’d read the menu to her and show
her the pictures that he carried with him of some food items. When
numbers lost their meaning and clocks became confusing, Fred created a
special clock—he removed the second and minute hands from a
battery-operated wall clock, leaving just the hour hand. “Now I can put a
piece of tape at the location the hand will be when it is dinnertime or
bedtime, and she can check it occasionally to see that the hour hand is
approaching the designated time,” he writes. “Who would have thought
that building a one-handed clock could be yet another way to tell my
wife ‘I love you.’”
4. Don’t be afraid to take the next step.
When Linda O’Connell had to repeatedly explain her mother’s recent death
to her stepfather, she knew his dementia was worsening. And when she
saw his dinner of peanut butter on crackers and a handful of M&Ms,
she knew Pops could no longer take care of himself. Linda and her
stepbrother agreed Pops needed more attention and care than they could
provide. So they made the difficult decision to move Pops into a nearby
care facility, knowing it was in his best interest. Once there, he
“With better nutrition, hydration, and mental stimulation Pops stays
awake longer. He becomes more sociable,” Linda wrote. “The best any of
us can do with loved ones who have dementia is to comfort and nurture
them through all the stages... And we must take each day one moment at a
5. Use humor.
Linda Rose Etter’s mother was suffering from dementia and wasting away,
but she refused to eat. Even when Linda prepared the one food her mom
still wanted—a baked potato with butter and cheese—she refused it. So
Linda took a different route: humor. She made the potato “talk,” and
used a different voice for Mr. Potato, who encouraged her mom to eat
him. That got her mom’s attention. But she still refused until the
potato “said” it would cry if Linda’s mom didn’t eat it. At this, her
mom cracked a smile, looked at her daughter and said, ‘“Tell him I’ll
eat him!’ And she did!” Linda writes. “Even with dementia she knew there
was something funny about a talking potato.”
Based on “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias” by Amy Newmark and Angela Timashenka Geiger.
For more information on Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias, please visit www.chickensoup.