While Alzheimer’s disease affects each person differently, you will notice changes in how people with the disease think, act and feel.
As the disease progresses, living with someone with Alzheimer’s disease will change as they lose their ability to understand, remember and communicate. They may also act completely out of character, have sudden outbursts or become disinterested in things they may have once enjoyed. And these changes may be accompanied by reduced coordination and mobility, including difficulty performing day-to-day tasks.
It’s easy to understand then that your relationship with them will likely change too:
- Companionship — you may not be able to share your memories, feelings, hopes and dreams with them any longer
- Role change — you may need to take charge of areas your loved one once handled (like finances, household chores or keeping in touch with extended family)
- Social life — friends or family may not visit or invite you out as often
- Intimacy — if you have a sexual relationship, they may become disinterested or want to have sex more often
But there are ways to prepare for these and other changes so that you can enjoy living with your loved one for as long as possible.
Tips for living with someone with Alzheimer’s disease
- Help with their isolation. Encourage them to stick with activities they enjoy and to share their feelings and emotions — even join a support group.
- Establish a routine. Making days more predictable may mean less confusion for your loved one.
- Use timing to your advantage. While you should expect tasks to take longer, try to schedule things during the time of day that best suits your loved one’s temperament.
- Help keep them safe. Be proactive about safety.
- Mind their driving. Some people are able to drive (and get insurance) for some time after being diagnosed. But eventually, they will have to stop driving. Until then, monitor their driving carefully (such as traffic violations, accidents, getting lost) and involve them in planning for a time when they no longer can drive.
- Scale down options. When it comes to meals, clothing and entertainment, the fewer choices you give, the easier it will be for them to decide.
- Be realistic about personal care. Your loved one (or your home) may not look as neat, clean and tidy as they once did. And they may find bathing upsetting and simply won’t do it as often. Expect that on some days, personal care may consist of just a few essentials — and that’s okay.
- Make dressing easier. De-clutter and reduce their wardrobe so that only comfortable clothing that fits and is easy to put on, take off and keep clean is available.
- Help them sleep. People with Alzheimer’s disease may have a hard time sleeping through the night. Try these tips to help encourage a good night’s sleep.
Finally, be sure to get the support you need. Living with someone with Alzheimer’s disease is not easy — but you’re not alone.
Search “Alzheimer’” in Find Support for organizations in your area.