The first question many people have after a family member has been
diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is:
“What can I expect?”
It’s a query without a concrete answer, since cognitive impairment progresses differently in different people. Your mother may maintain her sweet, nurturing demeanour, in spite of the disease, or she may start exhibiting uncharacteristically selfish behaviour. Your husband’s sense of suitable behaviour may stay intact, or it may become warped, causing him
to make inappropriate sexual and racial remarks in public.A few things, however, become relatively certain when Alzheimer’s invades your life:
Your role will change — and it won’t be easy
Cognitive decline in your loved one may happen fast or slow, and it will likely be unpredictable. One minute, your wife may be chatting away, happy as a clam, and the next, she may become violent, lashing out for no apparent reason. Like your loved one’s mood, your role as a caregiver will always be in flux. In the beginning, you might be mostly called upon to help out with simple tasks—laundry, shopping,cooking. As your loved one’s cognitive abilities decline, you might eventually need to provide more hands-on care with activities such as bathing, dressing and going to the bathroom. There may also
come a time when you and the rest of the family will have to seriously consider placing a loved one with Alzheimer’s into an assisted living community or nursing home. The variability of your journey as a caregiver will cause emotional, relational and financial stress, whichyou need to prepare for properly.
You’re in it for the long haul
Nearly one-third of Alzheimer’s caregivers provide assistance to their loved ones for more than five years, according to statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association’s “2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report.” When the billions of hours of unpaid care provided by relatives are divided evenly amongst the millions of informal Alzheimer’s caregivers in America, the typical family member will look after their loved one for about 22 hours each week.
Your loved one won’t be the same
Alzheimer’s disease causes the death of neurons and the shrinkage of brain tissue. Depending on which areas of the brain are impacted, an individual’s personality can become permanently altered. There may come a day when your wife of 40 years no longer remembers who you are, or your once-loving father starts screaming at you every time you walk into the room. When faced with these heart-rending situations, the only way to cope is to give yourself permission and time to grieve the loss of the loved one you once knew, and try to make peace with who they are right now.
You won’t be the same
As any long-term caregiver will tell you, care giving can change your personality says these changes may be either positive or negative. “Much depends, of course, on personal insight, general openness to change, feelings for the person you are caring for and your own physical and mental health.In the end, whether the changes that remain with you are positive or negative may rest with how you view life in general.”