On a recent visit with a loved one that is diagnosed with Younger-onset Alzheimer’s, I was happy to see that over my visit, they got more communicative, and emotions began to emerge back to familiar patterns.
While I have many clients that have been diagnosed with varied health issues, the concept of the long goodbye is a very apt description as you engage with a loved one diagnosed with most forms of dementia. While I regularly interact with clients diagnosed with dementia, when it’s someone that has been in my life for decades and I see the loss, it is emotionally more difficult.
I try to never forget this with I am working with a spouse or family member. I know the pain of loss as your loved one is sitting right next to you.
While I was worried about my visit, my stress/loss/sadness lifted as walked, shopped, ate, worked alongside, and built an outdoor porch swing … simple tasks that she could participate in and work in tandem. We laughed at familiar jokes, discussed likes and dislikes, and had what felt more like a traditional visit.
She was very quiet on day one. I wasn’t sure if she knew who I was and there were some odd moments when I could tell she was on-guard. By day two she was sharing thoughts on things and during one conversation mentioned that she was frustrated when her brain betrayed her. Always one that liked shiny things, we had fun at the mall and she got to pick out a new sparkly belt for her favorite pants.
There is still life to be lived. However, it takes more time and consideration on how to help a loved one navigate their days. In my local area, there is a nonprofit that runs a day program called Insight Memory Care. They work to guide individuals with memory loss through their day and time-and-time again I have seen how more engagement brightens the day, and the working memory for those diagnosed with memory loss.
I hope that if you are caring for a loved one, you can find local programs or resources that might provide both physical and cognitive stimulation which can make a difference for both you and your loved one. Encouraged.
I know caring for someone you love and navigating forward is overwhelming. They are lucky to have you in their life to support them. THANK YOU! They may not be able to tell you but they do appreciate your love and care.
Some places to look in your area for resources include:
- Contact the local government for services. You can use this government website to find your local agency: Eldercare Locator (acl.gov)
- Hire an Aging Life Care Manager. They are professionals dedicated to support health interests and have experience and knowledge with the local care services. They are an invaluable resource to get solutions for your loved ones. You can find one in your area here.
- Contact your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. While Alzheimer’s is just one type of dementia, the same resources and programs being offered can benefit you and your loved ones.