Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and the effect it can have on people’s lives is truly tragic. That’s why each year during September, we observe World Alzheimer's Month – a time during which you can show solidarity to people in your community who are either coping with the disease themselves, or supporting a loved one through it.
In addition to raising awareness, this month also acts as a fundraising drive to raise money for organizations looking to find a cure, and those that help care for people facing Alzheimer’s. If you’re able to donate, volunteer or get involved, this month is a great time to do so.
But it’s not just once a year we think about how to better deal with Alzheimer’s. It’s an ongoing fight that we can all participate in, by simply finding ways to support and care for those who are going through it. As we wrote about last year, while Alzheimer’s doesn’t exclusively affect the elderly, it is disproportionately found in seniors. You may know someone in your own life who’s living with the disease today. So what can you do to make their life easier?
Education can make all the difference
If you’ve ever wanted to be better informed about Alzheimer’s and associated forms of dementia, there’s no better time than this month. And starting with this blog is a great first step! There are plenty of stigmas that people living with Alzheimer’s have to face, many of which stem from ignorance. Consequently, people may withdraw, or reduce contact with those struggling in their lives, something that can make coping all the more difficult.
Exercise patience and flexibility
Whether you’re interacting with someone who has Alzheimer’s, or family members who are primary care-givers, it’s important to be mindful of the toll this illness can take. For people who are living with Alzheimer’s, they may be frustrated and react negatively when the diagnosis is handed down. While they may attempt to push you and others away, it’s important to be there in the ways you can, whether it’s in a care-giving capacity, or simply as a friend to share a conversation with, enhancing quality of life.
Talk to the person with Alzheimer’s
As we discussed in our 2020 post for Alzheimer’s awareness month, the stigmas attached to the condition can dehumanize the person. Many act as though the diagnosis means the end of a person – or at least their personality. Not only is this untrue, but engaging in conversation with friends and loved one can actually slow the progression of the illness, or a least add a great deal of richness to the last few years of their life. Taking the time to make conversation with people living who have Alzheimer’s is a great way to show your support.
Learn their preferred communication style
Once you’ve made the commitment to talk to someone with Alzheimer’s, it’s important to take steps to respect the way they may prefer to communicate. Often times, long conversations can be draining for people with Alzheimer’s, so be prepared to keep it short if they look like their getting tired. Laugh and reminisce about the past – you may have the chance to relive some memories more than once over your conversations, and that’s a great reminder of how these times genuinely leave an impression on someone. Also, prepare to introduce yourself! As the illness advances, some details might slip, but that doesn’t mean your presence is unwelcome. Plan a few lines out as an introduction so the person with Alzheimer’s can get to know you all over again.
Offer primary caregivers and family some time off
When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it can put strain on their entire family. People naturally want to offer the best care, and that might mean being as present as possible to ensure the person with Alzheimer’s has everything they need. But being on-call like that can be stressful, and put a strain on the mental well-being of close family and primary care givers. Do you have the relationship and ability to step up and offer a hand? Giving the night off, or simply being there as an extra set of arms and a kind voice can make all the difference and ease a great deal of burden.
Offer financial support to research and charities
If you’re able to, giving financial support to organziations that research Alzheimer’s treatment, or simply offer quality-of-life solutions is a straight forward way to support people with the condition. While the impact may not be as direct as helping out with care, charities and research organizations rely on financial support to advance medicine and improve quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s. If you’re wondering where you can contribute, The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada offers resources, support and contributes to research.
Offer your support for World Alzheimer’s Month
If you’ve been waiting for a good moment to lend support to people with Alzheimer’s, World Alzheimer’s month is the perfect opportunity. Alzheimer’s tends to affect seniors at a greater rate than other demographics. And at Heart to Home Meal, senior care is extremely important to us. That’s why we’re happy to raise awareness about this important month of observance, and hope it inspires others to look for ways to continue supporting related causes.