November 17th, 2017
Alzheimer’s patients aren’t simply characterized by their loss of long-term memory, although that certainly is a devastating hallmark of the disease. However, perhaps even more troubling to older adults in the early stages of Alzheimer’s is the social isolation that comes as part of their insecurity to hold up their end of a conversation. This year, make it a resolution to do your part to include your loved one in family celebrations, shopping trips with friends, school productions, and any other events that will help with drawing them in and encouraging them to share their stories and thoughts.
Impacts of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s, a progressive disease that affects memory, behavior and thinking, is characterized by slowly-developing symptoms that generally affect people over the age of 65 (although people as early as 40 and 50 can be stricken with it), according to ALZ.org. The disease starts off with mild memory loss and progresses from there, often affecting a person’s ability to conduct a two-way conversation with much clarity. In fact, they may stop mid-sentence to recall just the right word or perhaps remember a name. This makes it extremely embarrassing for them to participate in multi-person communications, as they find it hard to keep track of what’s being said and respond appropriately.
Confronting Social Isolation
Once this begins to happen with more frequency, your loved one may start declining invitations to parties, holiday gatherings, work events and the like — all in an effort to avoid the embarrassment that such stressful social situations pose. As another year has just passed, it’s more important than ever to make a renewed effort to include your loved one in conversation. Speak slowly, look them in the eye, give them a chance to tell their story, and prod them along when necessary. This can happen as simple conversation over the dinner table, or it can even be during a board game after dessert. Perhaps your loved one doesn’t want to play a game she once loved because it’s difficult to remember the rules. Gently encourage game participation, take it slow, give clues on the rules where necessary, and cut the game short so as not to add to her stress level. Ask what it was like growing up when she was young, encouraging her to tell stories of her youth to your children or grandchildren.
Encouraging as much independence as possible, especially during the early years, is important for your loved one’s sense of self-worth. Advanced Home Care Services of Massachusetts can help you achieve just that, assisting them with reminders and daily tasks they used to do with ease. For more information, schedule a free, in-home consultation. And keep your loved one with Alzheimer’s close this year – they need you to include them in the family!