Did you know that June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month? Supporting public education and those impacted by Alzheimer’s Disease has never been more important. According to the nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5.8 million seniors are currently living with the disease, two-thirds of whom are women, and the vast majority of care is provided by family members, friends, and other unpaid volunteers.
As advocates across the health care, nonprofit, and legal communities gather to raise awareness and offer resources to those in need, let us take a moment to consider these tips for communicating with someone suffering from the disease:
- Know what to expect. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease and the most common form of dementia. There is currently no known cure. Symptoms include memory loss, diminished problem-solving abilities, and poor judgment. Symptoms also worsen over time. Impacted seniors are generally able to function during initial stages of the disease, but, as it progresses, aging adults have trouble expressing thoughts and emotions. They may jumble their words, struggle with simple tasks, and exhibit unpredictable behavior. Late-stage Alzheimer’s typically involves around-the-clock care and can even be life-threatening.
- Learn how to communicate. Communication is critical in any relationship, including with an aging loved one with Alzheimer’s. During the middle and latter stages of the disease, communication will become difficult, but do not get frustrated. Remember, he or she is not in control of what is happening. Try to speak slowly and use simple, clear sentences. Call the senior adult by name and remind him or her of who you are if there seems to be some confusion. Find different ways of saying the same thing when necessary and create a calm environment whenever possible. Above all, try to be patient and compassionate.
- Learn how not to communicate. Poor communication can create stress for both the speaker and the struggling elder adult. Refrain from saying things like “Did you forget?” or “How could you not know?” It is important to meet Alzheimer’s adults where they are at and not punish them for their condition. Try not to talk as if he or she is not in the room. Refrain from using sarcasm or irony, and do not use patronizing language or “baby talk.”
- Get legal documents in order. Following a positive diagnosis, family members should consider helping their elder loved one obtain a durable power of attorney. This will allow a trusted confidant to make legally binding decisions on his or her behalf. An advance directive and health care privacy release are also important legal considerations, as are any estate planning updates that would provide for long-term care and changing inheritance circumstances.
Having an elder loved one with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be overwhelming. We are here to help you by providing information and trusted legal support. If you or someone you know would like more information or guidance about related legal matters, contact our office today.