I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s and I have countless patients who have been diagnosed as well. Navigating thru this horrible disease takes a toll, mostly on the family and caregivers; there is a reason they call it “The Longest Good-bye.” But, with some patience and skill, the journey is manageable.
There is no cure for Dementia or it’s related diseases of which, Alzheimer’s, makes up 60-80 percent. Although research is making some strides, close to 1,100 drugs in R & D within the last decade failed to make it past clinical trials. Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America, costing more than cancer and heart disease. Caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias total $260 billion per year and is projected to be close to a trillion by 2050.
The prevalence of Alzheimer’s is staggering. Consider:
- Of the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, an estimated 5.2 million people are age 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65 (younger-onset Alzheimer’s).
- One in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease.
- 1 in 3 seniors die of Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.
Chances of you having a family member with this disease is extraordinary. How you manage a loved one with it is a challenge.
I always tell my clients to choose your battles gently when dealing with this disease. Sometimes there is verbal abuse, physical altercations, blaming, the same story over and over and things that aren’t true or, embellished; it’s the disease not the person. It is stressful to be a caregiver under those circumstances but, not impossible. Some pointers:
- Don’t personalize it. You are just on the receiving end at that particular moment.
- Be patient and supportive. Don’t argue, criticize or try to correct.
- Maintain eye contact and allow time for response so they can think about what they want to say.
- Go to their world if needed. If they are focused on something, go there with them.
- Locate a support group; there is one in every community.
- Lastly, laugh from time to time. It can lighten the stress.