If you are caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease then it’s likely that you spend a lot of time with them. This on-the-job training has taught you many things about the disease including how to interpret your loved one’s behaviors.
But when someone has never met a person with Alzheimer’s disease, they are clueless. And what they think they know is likely incorrect. As you know, until you spend time with a person with Alzheimer’s, the stigma clouds your understanding.
When people don’t understand something, anxiety builds and a fear of doing the wrong thing takes hold. People care but they don’t know what to expect, and therefore, they don’t know how to act. This may cause them to simply avoid the person or situation all together.
Even when they've overcome this initial fear, they are still nervous. They don’t realize that they should just relax and treat your loved one normally but with a little extra compassion and patience. Depending on the stage, many people with Alzheimer’s appear normal during brief visits. This confuses guests and may cause them to doubt that your loved one has dementia. This often results with them saying something that second guesses and annoys the caregiver.
As the day progresses, the guest may start to notice that your loved one repeats behaviors such as asking the same question or telling the same old story. At first they won’t realize that this is the disease. They may even start to quibble with your loved one. These situations are new to them and modifying their responses is a learned process. So a gentle reminder from the caregiver may be needed.
This holiday season remember that people care but they just don’t know how to act. They are afraid they will do something embarrassing. For the sake of your loved one, invite quests over anyway because isolation is deadly. But if possible, it’s always best to discuss your loved one’s unique behaviors prior to their visit. This will ease their apprehension and make for an enriched and loving time together.
About the Author: Mike Good is founder of http://togetherinthis.com/ an online resource helping family members caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.