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Respect and Caring for Someone with Alzheimer's

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Treating the Alzheimer's patient with respect and making them feel valued are important parts of the Alzheimer's caregiver's job.

Understanding and Respecting the Person with Alzheimer's

It's very important that people with Alzheimer's are treated with respect. If you can understand what the person is going through, it might be easier for you to realize why they behave in certain ways. It is important to remember that a person with Alzheimer's is still a unique and valuable human being, despite their illness.

When a person with Alzheimer's finds that their mental abilities are declining, they often feel vulnerable and in need of reassurance and support. The people closest to them - including their caregivers, friends and family - need to do everything they can to help the person to retain their sense of identity and feelings of self-worth.

Feeling Valued

The person with Alzheimer's needs to feel respected and valued for who they are now, as well as for who they were in the past. As a caregiver, there are many things you can do to help:

  • Try to be flexible and tolerant.
  • Make time to listen, have regular chats, and enjoy being with the person.
  • Show affection in a way you both feel comfortable with.

Things to remember

  • Each person with Alzheimer's is a unique individual, with their own very different experiences of life, their own needs and feelings, and their own likes and dislikes.
  • Although some symptoms of Alzheimer's are common to everyone, Alzheimer's affects each person in different ways.
  • Everyone - including friends, family members, caregivers, and the person with Alzheimer's - reacts to the experience of Alzheimer's in their own way. Alzheimer's means different things to different people.

There are lots of things you can do to help the person with Alzheimer's feel good about themselves. Here are some suggestions.

As someone caring for a person with Alzheimer's, you need to take account of the person's abilities, interests and preferences. These may change as the Alzheimer's progresses. It's not always easy, but try to respond flexibly and sensitively.


 


Supporting other people

If anyone else is involved in caring for the person with Alzheimer's, give them as much background information as possible, as well as information about their present situation. This will help them see the person they're caring for as a 'whole person' rather than simply 'someone with Alzheimer's'. It may also help them to feel more confident about finding conversation topics or suggesting activities that the person may enjoy.

If someone is not used to being around people with Alzheimer's, here are a few things to emphasize:

  • Alzheimer's is nothing to be ashamed of. It is no one's fault.
  • If the person tends to behave in ways that other people find irritating or upsetting, this may be because of the Alzheimer's - it's not deliberate.
  • The person with Alzheimer's may remember the distant past more clearly than recent events. They are often happy to talk about their memories, but anyone listening needs to be aware that some of these memories may be painful.

What's in a name?

Our sense of who we are is closely connected to the names by which we call ourselves. It's important that people address the person with Alzheimer's in a way that the person recognizes and prefers.

  • Some people may be happy for anybody to call them by their first name or nickname.
  • Others may prefer younger people, or those who do not know them very well, to address them formally and to use courtesy titles, such as Mr. or Mrs.

Source:

Alzheimer's Society UK - Carers' advice sheet 524

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 14). Respect and Caring for Someone with Alzheimer's, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alzheimers/caregivers/respect-and-caring-for-someone-with-alzheimers

Last Updated: May 8, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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