How to Help a Family Cope with Their Loved One’s Alzheimer's
When a patient develops Alzheimer’s, the people who are closest to him may experience grief and other emotions, as this illness takes its toll. During the progression of the disease, family members and friends may feel that they have come to terms with the current stage of a loved one’s illness, only
to have the patient’s behavior alter or his abilities further deteriorate.
A Sense of Loss
Family members and friends feel loss keenly when someone they love develops Alzheimer’s. Depending on someone’s relationship with the patient, the family and friends lose the person they once knew, the relationship they shared and the future they may have planned together.
If the friendship or family tie is strong, it is natural for a person who cares for our patient to miss the support or companionship they once shared.
Grief Is a Natural Process
Grieving will take a patient’s friends and family through many ups and downs. Once they accept the situation, they may experience periods when they can cope with it, and others in which they cannot. Those who care will often be angry or sad, or experience a feeling of numbness.
These are normal feelings from grief, and the family and friends must realize that they may themselves need emotional support.
How Can We Help?
Family members and friends of those with Alzheimer’s may wish to speak with you, to others in similar situations or to a therapist.
Be sure to encourage a patient’s family and friends to keep their own needs in mind, as well. If they spend much time with the patient, regular breaks can be helpful. People close to our patients will miss the times they used to spend together, before their friend or family member needed residential care.
We can help families to deal with their relatives who have Alzheimer’s by allowing them to continue to be active in caring for their relative, if this is possible. Explain to family members that there isn’t a right or wrong way they should feel. Everyone’s feelings are different, and there should be no guilt about the feelings they are experiencing. The journey is difficult, but we can make it easier for our patients and their families.