Impacting roughly 5 million senior Americans, Alzheimer’s has made a name for itself in the elderly community. Little is understood about the cause of the disease and even less is known about the solution. What we do know is that it’s effects are heart-breaking.

Disrupting basic cognitive functions, altering personalities, and clouding memories, Alzheimer’s Disease is simply explained as the decline of the brain. It primarily affects the elderly age group, but it has a direct impact on the overall family lifestyle for all of those connected to a loved one diagnosed with the disease. It quickly becomes the family’s responsibility, specifically the spouse’s task, to care for the affected senior and a new set of challenges are presented almost daily as the family members learn their roles.

During an early stage of Alzheimer’s, the senior will typically need reminders to complete routine activities like eating regular meals, taking medication, managing hygiene tasks, and remembering names. As this stage progresses, the senior may struggle with incontinence as well as facial recognition. More severe stages of the disease may eventually require total care for all of their needs.  

So what happens when a senior facing Alzheimer’s Disease experiences the loss of their spouse? With such a complicated and variant diagnosis, there is no specific instruction for how every situation should be managed. But there are a few tips that will ease the process for those left to care for their loved one in the spouse’s place.

Firstly, someone will need to share the news of the passing of the spouse with the senior. The news should be offered gracefully, and presented in a manageable format that lends itself to the stage of the seniors Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The family member or caregiver responsible with this undertaking should know which triggers to avoid, and should also consider having another family member with them in the case of an unexpected, negative reaction. Grief already yields so much pain, and to a senior battling illness the news will more than likely be overwhelming. 

Emotional symptoms are at the forefront of the issue, as grief is already known for bringing a variety of emotions to the surface. But Alzheimer’s brings a few specific emotions that could be heightened during the mourning and adjustment period. Anxiety and stress are common emotions that could easily come from the confusion of missing their spouse or not recognizing a new caregiver. As for the caregiver, patience is key and they will need to find a way to share the daily responsibilities with other family members in order to relieve their own stresses and anxieties. Whether family member or hired caregiver, this person will be challenged with physical and mental oppositions.

Emotions can also quickly escalate to physical and behavioral reactions, especially where Alzheimer’s is concerned. Even without the added grief, physical aggression is common with Alzheimer’s patients. On any given day, the senior may be physically uncomfortable, experience medicinal side effects, or become overstimulated by their environments. A few tips for a caregiver to ease a rising outburst, include: conceding to an unnecessary argument, changing the topic, and speaking quietly instead of raising your voice. In emergency situations, calling for help may be necessary.

There is no doubt that the issue of Alzheimer’s and losing a spouse are two of the toughest battles a family can face. When both of these are combined, the road is even harder to walk. And yet, as the family of their beloved senior works out the difficulties associated with Alzheimer’s, they inadvertently provide an atmosphere of support that the senior really needs during their time of grief. As Alzheimer’s Disease affects your beloved senior during their time of loss, be the help they need most.

Author: Michael Longsdon (ElderFreedom.net)

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