Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s is hard work.
You may have to deal with personality changes and difficult behaviors. You
may be asked the same question over and over. You typically face issues with
bathing, dressing and toileting. Your loved one may wander off if you aren't
What I want to achieve in this article is to offer some ideas about five
things Alzheimer's caregivers should never do:
Don't Be in Denial
The problem with denial is it doesn't lead you to take your loved one to a
primary care physician or neurologist for a complete workup. And the problem
with that is that sometimes dementia is caused by health issues other
than Alzheimer's. As I stated in another article, "What If It's Not Alzheimer's?" some of those problems
can be treated or even reversed. And if it is Alzheimer's the earlier treatment
is started, the better.
Don't Ask "Do You Remember?"
Asking a person with Alzheimer's if they remember something is a common
mistake that's easy to make. It's almost as though we think we can jog their
memory. But we rarely do. They have probably forgotten the event in question.
That's what people with Alzheimer's do. They forget. So it's better to say,
"I remember when…" and then tell them a story.
Don't Argue With or Contradict the Person
If you're caring for someone with dementia, it's so easy to contradict or
argue with them when they say things that are total nonsense. But the fact of
the matter is that you can never win an argument with people who have dementia.
They will stick to their guns to the bitter end! It's much better to agree with
them and then change the subject. This can prevent a nasty argument that would
spoil your time with your loved one. For more detailed advice on this issue see
my article, "The Contentious Alzheimer's Patient – You Can Be Right or You
Can Have Peace."
Don't Delay Nursing Home Placement When It's Clearly Needed
At some point in the disease process it may (but not always) become evident
that you can no longer care for the person at home. They'll likely need a
nursing staff and aids 24 hours a day and a physician on call at all times.
They also need a dietician, a cook, a housekeeper, an activity director and
many more professionals. Another important thing they need is to have people
around them to provide social stimulation.
Don't Stop Visiting When Your Loved One No Longer Recognize You
Many people think that there's no reason to visit a loved one who no longer
recognizes them, but I am firmly convinced that you should visit anyway. First of
all, the person may enjoy being visited even if he or she doesn't quite know
who is visiting them. More importantly, it's possible that the person does
recognize you but simply isn't able to say so.
We never know whom Alzheimer's patients do and do not recognize somewhere
deep down. Although there's no way to know for sure, my conviction is that the
person is really "in there" somewhere and we should always assume the
person may know and feel more than he or she can express.