How to Approach a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease

Approaching your loved one with Alzheimer’s should be done with a great deal of caution, caring and compassion. There is a rule of thumb in caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease: you will never win an argument with someone who has dementia. Denial is their first line of defense; they will project blame on you. It is frightening to think that they might be losing their ability to think, communicate and reason. It is embarrassing when they get lost driving to the same grocery store that they have shopped at for many years.  They literally are losing control over their very existence.

Here are a few suggestions when it comes to caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Confront your own denial about their condition. Discuss the issue honestly with the rest of your family.
  • Search the Alzheimer’s Association Web site and use this organization as a resource for factual information.
  • Start discussing Alzheimer’s and dementia as soon as you get some sense of changes in their ability to remember things or their behavior/personality.
  • Don’t wait until a crisis happens to bring up the subject.
  • Discuss Alzheimer’s in a calm and supportive manner.
  • Don’t preach, accuse or loudly confront them – this will just get their defenses up rather than help them confront their own issues.
  • Try to get them to talk about their own feelings and what they are confronting.
  • Take small steps in talking about the issues over time - don’t have one major confrontation.
  • Assure them that you and the rest of the family will always be there to support them.

For additional help, contact a local therapist or geriatric care manager who specializes in dealing with older clients with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

When it comes to caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease, the holidays are a great opportunity to talk to your family members about your concern for a parent or loved one. Try coming to an agreement among all siblings or family members, avoiding an adult “sandbox fight.” It is important to get the whole family on the same page, which can sometimes be difficult.  With siblings often out of town, living in many different places, there are often disagreements over what is best for mom or dad.  You may have to work through some tough issues of sibling rivalry, stemming from when you were kids.  Often, the child who still lives in town with mom or dad gets blamed for what is happening. Or, the out of town siblings don’t believe what he or she is saying about your loved one.