6 Reasons Why Coping with Alzheimer's Is So Challenging

Coping with Challenges of Alzheimer's
Cultura/Uwe Umstaetter Cultura Exclusive/ Getty Images

Every situation or disease has its unique challenges, including Alzheimer's disease. While there's no "right" answer to the question of, "What are those challenges for Alzheimer's?", here's an attempt to identify a few of the most pressing ones that I've observed in clinical practice.

Identifying these issues and challenges is a way to acknowledge and share some of the feelings you may be facing. While some people express feelings of privilege and honor about being able to care for a loved one who is living with dementia, others feel guilty about acknowledging the difficulties.

It's normal to experience a broad range of feelings as you cope with Alzheimer's disease

6 Reasons Why Coping with Alzheimer's Is So Challenging

1) The person might not look any different, yet she is different.

Unlike other conditions where it might be clear to the casual observer that the person is battling cancer or is physically ill, Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia may be quite invisible upon first glance, especially in the early stages. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that you may need to provide an explanation at times to those around her if she's having a hard day.

2) The loss of shared memories and the presence of confusion may cause grief for both the person with the disease and his family.

Alzheimer's disease can be difficult, both to experience and to watch. Some people describe it as that feeling of sand slipping through your fingers at the beach, except there's no refilling your hands with another scoop of warm sand.

3) Sometimes, the core personality of the person changes with the disease.

If personality changes develop, they can often be more difficult to cope with than the cognitive symptoms such as memory loss. Some days, it can be very difficult to find your loved one as the disease hides her. Other days, she's right there.

4) Behaviors and emotions in Alzheimer's disease can be difficult.

The behavioral and psychological symptoms in dementia (BPSD) can be difficult to not take personally, even when you remind yourself that they're due to the disease and not the person. Responding in a way that's helpful and not patronizing, as well as with patience and understanding, can also be a challenge at times.

5) Alzheimer's care can be expensive.

Because Alzheimer's requires increased supervision at minimum and direct care as the disease progresses, the costs of Alzheimer's can add up quickly. Many resources are available to help with care, but several are not covered by insurance.

6) For some, acknowledging that you or a loved one has Alzheimer's carries a stigma.

Many are unsure of how to react to the news that a friend or family member has Alzheimer's disease. They may make assumptions about the person and not visit her anymore, thinking that she "wouldn't remember me anyway" or that a visit would soon be forgotten and therefore not worth the effort.

(The truth is that in the early stages, the visit would likely be very meaningful, and in the later stages, even if it's forgotten, the happy emotions it brings often last far beyond than the memory.

Additionally, there continues to be a lack of knowledge as well as many myths and misinformation in the general public about Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. While much has been done to combat this and increase public awareness, much remains to be done to reduce the stigma of dementia.

Source:

Alzheimer's Disease International. World Alzheimer Report 2012. Overcoming the stigma of dementia. 2012. http://www.alz.org/documents_custom/world_report_2012_final.pdf

Continue Reading