In this latest post from an AFA Teens Advisory Board Member, Andrew Hsu explains what you should do to support your relative who has dementia from a teens perspective.
When we are young, our parents are supposed to take care of us. From the time we were born, even to now, our parents, if we are lucky, are always supporting us physically, financially, emotionally and in many other ways.
We’re kids. We’re supposed to be carefree, or at the very least, mind our own business. Anything that was not school related and was confusing was automatically tossed to our parents to deal with. They’re the adults and we’ve pretty much ingrained in our minds that they would forever be the ones who would take care of us; that they would be the ones to solve all the problems; that they are all-powerful.
At least that’s what I thought when I was growing up. Now that I’m transitioning into adulthood, the experience is surreal. The adults in my life are getting older, and I’m starting to realize that my parents and other relatives are like any other human beings. They get old, too, and now, the fact of our elders getting sick, getting older and dying is suddenly becoming more and more real.
When a relative has Alzheimer’s disease, you need to assure the relative that he or she has your support. The person will be less and less able to think and organize his or her thoughts in order to communicate, so you have to be very patient and understanding. Don’t be disappointed if your relative is having trouble recognizing you. It’s not because he or she doesn’t love you anymore. It’s simply because he or she is unable to recognize you. Don’t get frustrated, and be sure to visit often. Don’t interrupt when the relative is trying to speak because it will cause everyone to be frustrated and that’s not what we ultimately want.
In supporting your relative, it’s also important to understand that they often need the familiarity and repetition in their lives in order to minimize confusion and disorientation. Don’t be afraid to repeat what you just said because, with the person’s short-term memory loss, your relative might ask the same questions over and over again and you might have to repeat your answers.
The best thing to do is to always be understanding of your relative and always be patient, no matter what the circumstances. Although it may be challenging trying to communicate with your relative, always do your best. Now is the time to be as loving as possible. Do the best you can and always adjust! Hopefully, this helps with ways to support your relative in the event that he or she does end up being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.