When you ask people what living well means to them, you will get an array of answers. For some, it’s about being happy, for others it’s about their health.
But for the family faced with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, it takes on a whole new meaning — living well is vital to delaying the progression of the disease.
It Takes a Team
It is possible for a person with Alzheimer’s and their family to live well. But it requires a team effort implementing different strategies based on the person’s abilities and needs throughout the stages of the disease.
Because the primary care partner, generally a spouse or adult child, must stand beside the individual throughout the disease progression, their well-being often also erodes, if left unchecked. Therefore, a family’s care strategy for a person with Alzheimer’s must include the primary care partner as well.
Adapting these strategies as the disease progresses is essential for the family to remain strong during all stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the first major hurdles of Alzheimer’s caregiving is overcoming the initial emotions, which often lead to depression, and subsequently, both social and emotional isolation. Too often, depression and fear take hold, and the care partners withdraw from family, friends and society.
Isolation accelerates the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Once a person becomes cut off, they start to lose their sense of purpose. Having purpose is critical to living well; whether it’s family, a cause, or a hobby, this purpose is why we get up in the morning.
Out of the Closet
Once an Alzheimer’s patient learns to manage their emotions and realizes they have a disease which is no different than diabetes or breast cancer, they become more comfortable in sharing their diagnosis and talking about it, when appropriate.
However, like cancer or HIV of the past, the general public has many misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease.