Imagine Health

Living with Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, degenerative brain disorder that mainly affects memory and other important cognitive functions like reasoning, decision-making, and language among others. It is not a normal part of aging, but is the most common form of dementia in older people. Alzheimer’s disease is usually diagnosed after the age of 60. However, symptoms can start presenting as early as age 30.

Due to its slow development, this poses significant stress not only to the person who suffers from it, but also to the loved ones who witness these gradual loss of functions. People with Alzheimer’s will become forgetful and confused, sometimes agitated and even aggressive. These symptoms will get worse as the illness progresses, which, in turn will make the job harder for the caregiver.

Challenges Faced by Caregivers of an Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) Sufferer

Communication Skills

Because of the dwindling memory of the person with AD, they may struggle to convey their thoughts and may not remember the correct words to describe things. This makes it difficult and frustrating trying to communicate with them.
<To Encourage Communication:>

  • Make eye contact and be mindful of your body language.
  • Speak in a warm manner and do not shout.
  • Encourage him or her to make some decisions and stay involved.
  • Be patient when he or she becomes angry or frustrated. This is the “illness” talking.
  • Give simple, step by step instructions. Repeat if needed.
  • Do not talk about the person in his or her absence. Even muttering or whispering can be interpreted in a negative way.
  • Ask questions that can be answerable by yes or no instead of a full explanation.

Personality and Behavioural Challenges

  • It might be noticed that the person with AD will have “good” and “bad” days. He or she can easily get upset, worried or angry, imagine things that are not there, become aggressive, wander away from home, and may even neglect personal hygiene. Being in an unfamiliar place will make them anxious, and so will making changes to their routine.

To deal with these behavioural changes:

  • Keep a simple routine for him or her and stick to it.
  • Be prepared to offer reassurance when they start worrying or feeling upset.
  • Be watchful of your own expressions and do not let your own negative emotions spill over.
  • Do not argue or try to reason with the person even if they are wrong.
  • Maintain a good sense of humour and try to lighten the conversation to appease him or her.
  • Use distractions such as playing their favourite music, singing, or dancing.
  • Ask him or her to help you with simple tasks like folding clothes.
  • Look for early signs of agitation so you can deal with the causes right away.
  • Keep in mind the things that he or she loves or enjoys. These will prove beneficial when you need something to distract him or her from getting angry or aggressive.
  • Let him or her maintain as much control of his or her life as possible.
  • Caffeine and sugar can also affect behaviour so these substances must be limited in their diet.

Looking after the Carer

Taking care of somebody with Alzheimer’s Disease is not an easy task. It can be very stressful and frustrating especially in the later stages of the disease and thus requires a great deal of patience. It can take its toll on one’s health and mental wellbeing.

These tips could be helpful:

  • Stay physically fit and emotionally strong.
  • Exercise regularly and have a strong social support. There are a lot of social groups composed of caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s.
  • Spend time together with the person with Alzheimer’s and find ways to help you understand and relate to him or her.
  • When you are feeling stressed, take a break from caregiving and do something enjoyable for yourself.
  • Educate yourself as much as possible about the disease so you can understand the symptoms and how best to deal with them.
  • Acknowledge that you are doing something good and do not feel guilty if you cannot do more. Being there for the person with Alzheimer’s when you’re needed is, in itself, a good thing.


Sherwyn Padilla