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Remember Their Love When They Can No Longer Remember Us

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MUJ chapter.

There is one thing Alzheimer’s can’t take away, and that is love. Love is not a memory- it’s a feeling that resides in your heart and soul.

World Alzheimer’s Day is observed on September 21 every year. This day is a global effort to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. It also aims to eradicate the stigma around Alzheimer’s disease as well as other types of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and contributes to 60-70% of cases. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that affects memory, thinking and behavior. These symptoms get worse over time and start to affect one’s daily living and activities. It usually affects people over the age of 65 years. This year focuses on identifying risk factors and adopting measures that can help prevent the onset of dementia. Remember that earlier stages of Alzheimer’s are the hardest. Particularly because the person knows they are losing awareness, they’re aware and you see them struggling, completely helpless.

If you or someone you love is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the first thing to do is to take a deep breath. You may feel scared and alone but think of the family and friends you can count on. Loving someone with Alzheimer’s will bring out every possible emotion from grief to joy to frustration to hope to hopelessness. The range of emotions is normal even when it feels horrible. On days when your emotions are all over the place, take a deep breath and re-center yourself and slowly restart. You’ve got this!

You don’t know what the future holds, but you can start thinking about who’s going to be there with you.

After an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, life will look different. But it isn’t over. Newly diagnosed people often despair they’ll have to give up travel. Not so. 

A trip that involves lots of stops and starts, a different hotel every night, unpacking and repacking may not be enjoyable. But a more leisurely trip in which you’re in one locale for a few days or a couple of weeks can be a wonderful respite. Air travel can be stressful for all of us these days. But it’s especially taxing on someone with Alzheimer’s. If you’re flying somewhere, allow time to take rest breaks in the airport. The pandemic made us all realize that we don’t know what the future holds. So why wait five or 10 years for that exciting trip? Start planning it now. It may look different than you had planned, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

Below are tips for loved ones caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. Educate yourself on the stages.
  2. Recognize when additional help is needed and know your options.
  3. Develop a structured routine.
  4. Plan activities.
  5. Yield support while allowing them to do as much as possible.
  6. Ensure consistent food and water intake.
  7. Provide safety in their own home.
  8. Talk often.
  9. Take care of yourself, too.
  10. Visit when you can.
  11. Provide primary caretakers with a break.
  12. Familiarize yourself with specific symptoms.

To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.

The overwhelming truth about Alzheimer’s is that a majority of caregiving falls to women. Whether they see it as a privilege, a burden, or a necessity, two-thirds of the primary unpaid caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s are female. More than one-third of these women are the daughters of those they care for. Since many women have previously taken on the role as primary caregiver to children, their siblings or other family members often assume they’ll take the lead in Alzheimer’s care. That’s not to say that men aren’t involved. Professional caregivers are quick to point out that they see plenty of sons and husbands taking on this work, too. Overall, the majority of caregivers are sacrificing their own health, finances, and family dynamic for the sake of their loved ones. Nearly three-quarters of caregivers reported that their own health has declined since taking on care responsibilities, and one-third have to miss their own doctor’s appointments to manage care of their loved one. 

  • 71 percent of caregivers are female.
  • 55 percent of caregivers are a daughter or son, or daughter-in-law or son-in-law.
  • 97 percent of millennial and Gen X caregivers have children (18 years and younger) living in their homes.
  • 75 percent of those with Alzheimer’s or related dementia remain at home or in a private residence despite the disease’s progression.
  • 59 percent of those with Alzheimer’s or related dementia say a cognition-related event (e.g., memory loss, confusion, impaired thinking) triggered a medical visit/evaluation.
  • 72 percent of caregivers say their health has worsened since becoming caregivers.
  • 59 percent of caregivers experience depression or anxiety.
  • 42 percent of caregivers use in-person support groups, online communities, and forums.
  • 50 percent of caregivers have had their careers and finances impacted due to caregiving responsibilities.
  • 44 percent of caregivers have difficulty saving for retirement.
  • 34 percent of caregivers say caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease has prompted them to test for the gene.
  • 63 percent of caregivers would take medication to delay the onset of memory loss by at least 6 months if it were affordable and free of side effects.

Statistics provided by Healthline

If there’s a silver lining, the intimate view of a loved one aging with Alzheimer’s is prompting more caregivers (34 percent) to be tested earlier for the disease’s biomarkers, something millennials are more proactive about than older generations. Having seen the impact of the disease, they’re more willing to take steps to prevent or delay the disease. Experts encourage this behaviour as it can have a major impact on the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s.

No family wants to experience Alzheimer’s disease. However, there’s a potential advantage to having a grandparent with the illness: Children gain insight into the impact of Alzheimer’s. Their worldview is broadened as they become wiser in their assessment of life and love. Along with their caregiving parents, children learn that the world is full of good and bad things, and how we approach bad experiences matters.

Who knows? A child exposed to a grandparent with Alzheimer’s may be inspired to one day find a cure.

Aditi Thakur is a 2nd year Computer Science student at Manipal University Jaipur. She deeply believes in less perfection and more authenticity. She is usually spilling her entire personal life online through her different Instagram accounts but is the biggest introvert in person. Give her access to K-pop, k-dramas and books and she might even survive an apocalypse.