As Alzheimer’s worsens, the symptoms become more severe and a person suffering with Alzheimer’s will eventually need day-to-day support. Some individuals start to have delusions and believe events have occurred that are not true. Changes in behaviour may also occur and they may also start to react aggressively to certain situations, become more agitated and behave differently to how they would’ve previously behaved.
As Alzheimer’s progresses into the later stages, the person will become much less aware and may struggle with their basic needs such as eating, walking and bathing, requiring help with more or all of their daily activities.
What to do if you think a loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s?
If you think a loved one is experiencing the early signs of dementia, although it is a difficult topic to bring up and you may be afraid of upsetting or worrying them, it’s important to encourage them to speak to their GP.
Memory loss doesn’t always mean dementia and can be linked to stress, anxiety and a natural part of getting older. However, it is important to ask your loved one to speak to a GP to get diagnosed with the cause properly. If dementia is the cause of memory loss and is found early, in some cases, the progression can be slowed down with medication and the person may be able to maintain their mental function for longer.
What happens when you seek a dementia diagnosis?
Initially, a GP will ask more about the symptoms and how they have developed. They may also do a memory test and physical examination. Blood tests may be carried out to rule out any other conditions.
Once or if any other causes are ruled out, your GP will refer your loved one to a memory clinic, or other specialist service, where more observations and assessments are carried out to confirm the diagnoses.
How to support a loved one with Alzheimer’s
As well as living with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the condition can also have a significant emotional, social, psychological and practical impact on a person’s life, with a loss of independence, skills, self-esteem and confidence combined with worries about what the future will look like.
When supporting a loved one with dementia, it can be helpful for you to try and understand how they might think and feel, as these emotions will also affect how they behave. They will probably be experiencing a world that is very different to yours, so trying to see things from their perspective will help you offer support.
As a carer, family member or friend, you cannot help to slow down the symptoms of Alzheimer’s but by practicing the following, it can help you both manage living with the condition:
- Keep things nice and simple, asking or saying one thing at a time so conversions or events are easy to follow.
- Try and have a daily routine, so your loved one can expect when certain things will happen. This gives a structure to the day or week that doesn’t rely on the person’s memory.
- Reassure them that he or she is safe and that you are there for them.
- Focus on his or her feelings in the present moment and talk about how they may be feeling.
- Don’t argue or try to reason with your loved one, their perception will likely be different to yours.
- If the person repeats a question, it won’t help to tell them that they’ve already asked. Repeat your answers in a simple way.
- Encourage your loved one to use a diary, journal or calendar to record events and conversations.
- If the person is given an appointment card, put it where the person can easily see it. For example, you could pin it to a noticeboard.
- Reduce distractions, such as background noise, to help the person focus on the task at hand.
- Sometimes you may feel frustrated, angry or upset. Try and be patient with your loved one. If you feel like you need a break or some help, don’t be afraid to ask. There is lots of support available for both you and your loved one.