Memory Loss And Alzheimer's

My mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few months ago. It seems that the disease is progressing very rapidly. My concern is that she doesn't recognize my father-in-law only during the evenings.  He is the primary caregiver.  I want to know if this is common with the spouse and what can he do to make her feel safe and secure.

Carmen in Ontario, Canada, 53

Dear Carmen,

Alzheimer's disease is a challenge for everyone: the person who has the diagnosis, as well as their support system (family and professionals). This is a time for all to be gentle with your mother-in-law and to give her short and clear instructions. Only give her one instruction or question at a time and wait for a response.

When she forgets family members, she needs constant reminders. I’m talking about reinforcements such as names in print, and pictures. I also label everything with words or pictures and even both sometime.  When it is a spouse or family member (such as your father-in-law) who is the primary support and caregiver, they may need to wear a name tag or have a picture and a name tag. The picture could be of their wedding or a picture from their younger years.

The person with dementia can often remember moments or events from years ago (long term memory), but not what they ate for their last meal (short term memory).  Finally, the caregiver needs support for themselves.  This can usually found at a local dementia or Alzheimer's group that’s designed specifically for caregivers.

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