There are no words that can adequately describe how extremely important and crucial your role is as the caregiver for someone who is living with Alzheimer’s disease. Whether it is your sweet mother, a spouse, a grandparent, or a close friend, Alzheimer’s is a cruel, life-changing illness—and that person needs your courage and support now more than ever.
In my book, You’re not Alone: Living as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, I begin the conversation by talking at great length about the ever-changing relationship between the caregiver and care recipient. Specifically, I discuss how the caregiver’s role changes as the illness progresses, the stress that comes with it, and how good communication is an important first step on the caregiving journey. Perhaps you’re in this situation right now and have seen first-hand how your role went from offering support to shouldering the demands of caring for that loved one 24 hours a day.
- You feel stress, anger, resentment, anxiety, irritability, and fatigue as your own health problems mount
- The care recipient feels guilt, sadness, anger, and confusion over feeling like they are a burden
As a caregiver, you want to prevent these negatives as much as possible by being mindful of what made your relationship so special in the first place and by communicating effectively so your loved one has time to process and respond.
10 Caregiver Communication Tools
Below are 10 communication tools when you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s:
- Absolutely never argue – You always want to steer every conversation in a direction where you are both in agreement. For example, if your mother wants to visit someone who has already passed away, say something like, “I have not seen him today,” rather than tell her that person is deceased. Then change the subject to a better topic.
- Never reason – Because reasoning with someone with Alzheimer’s is difficult and sometimes impossible, it is always best to change the subject or divert their attention to something else.
- Never shame or embarrass – Remember that your loved one is dealing with a disease they cannot control, and they can be easily embarrassed by your expressions or actions.
- Do not lecture – Shame and lecture go together. Instead, focus on reassuring them when they are having difficulty remembering what they’ve said or are struggling to keep track of things.
- Don’t say “remember” – When you are conversing, reminisce with pictures since they are evidence of the past and avoid asking direct questions that may make them feel like you are putting them on the spot.
- Never say “I told you” – This is where stress sets in and you can get frustrated by having to repeat things. Regroup by walking out of the room, focusing on your breathing, and even counting to 10 before reentering the conversation.
- Stop saying “you can’t” – Focus on what they can do rather than what they can’t. This gives meaning and purpose.
- Never command or demand – Ask or model the behavior you are looking for from your loved one. A perfect example is when you want them to eat. Sit down in front of them and eat your meal.
- Don’t condescend – Encourage and praise your loved one. Also, include them in conversations.
- Never force – If you need something done, find reinforcing techniques and language to get it done, or wait until later.
As a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, it is helpful to keep in mind that chronic diseases and chronic illnesses have a way of changing relationships for so many reasons and in so many ways. Roadmaps such as the tools mentioned above can be helpful, but they are not easy initially and will require patience and practice.
At Leigh Hilton PLLC in Denton, we have watched in awe clients who manage to juggle so much for themselves and loved ones. Our goal was to build a practice with a team of professionals who work together to have your back at all times—whether that means putting steps in place to protect you and your loved ones or offering practical advice. Leigh Hilton PLLC wants to be your first call every time for any estate planning or elder law need. We look forward to serving you.