A Podcast That Listens, Hears and Offers Wisdom & Hope From Caregivers Who Have Lived The Experience.
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What is Alzheimer’s?

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that slowly steals memories, the ability to think normally, and eventually the ability to care for yourself. The journey of Alzheimer’s can be anywhere from 2 to 20 years. I’m not sure which is worse.

Alzheimer’s affects everyone differently. While the disease is the same, where it attacks the brain can vary widely. The path of living with Alzheimer’s is similar and has the same result; each person is affected uniquely.

In the early stages, the disease usually manifests by making it challenging to remember current events. You may be unable to recall a conversation from this morning, but remember in great detail something from your childhood. My Mom would forget to give directions on client orders. Despite being easily explained, it was a problem that kept growing.

Had she neglected details on orders occasionally, I wouldn’t suspect that was an early sign of the disease. Because of the increased occurrence of this issue, I’m pretty sure that was the beginning.

Using memory aids is a common and useful workaround in the early stages. Some highly intelligent people frequently have more cognitive workarounds than the general population. These individuals may not show signs of the disease until it’s quite advanced.

Other Daily Struggles

As people living with Alzheimer’s progress, they begin to lose the ability to navigate daily life. One example of the challenges many folks face is preparing meals. For those of us who have “normal” brains, preparing a meal can be automatic. When thinking is difficult, this skill may be lost.

Thinking of the steps to make a sandwich can make the challenge more understandable. There are multiple steps in what seems like a simple task. Knowing this makes it easier to understand why people with Alzheimer’s begin to have problems preparing meals.

Another daily task that becomes challenging is personal hygiene. I like having a lot of choices, but choices can be overwhelming Alzheimer’s or not. Look in your closet and think about making a decision: the more options, the more challenges.

When making choices is difficult, most people default to making no choice. You may notice them wearing the same clothes day after day. Another reason for this issue could be a change in visual processing.

Peripheral vision diminishes, the contrast becomes reduced, and eventually, the person living with Alzheimer’s sees things as if they are looking through binoculars. If you can’t see that you have food on your front, you’re not likely to see the need to change your shirt.

Caring For Someone With Alzheimer’s

It’s natural to believe we can care for a loved one for the duration of their Alzheimer’s journey. It may or may not be possible to do this alone. Most Alzheimer’s caregivers will eventually need help, at least for the physical aspects of caring.

I have learned two things that help ensure long-term success as a caregiver. The first is how you approach the prospect of your shared future. Understandably, both of you are going to have a strong emotional reaction. Successful couples find navigating this disease easier when they are honest about their concerns.

One guest of mine was worried her husband would forget her. (This is not an uncommon occurrence, unfortunately.) He was worried she’d abandon him. Once they discussed their fears, they developed a plan that addressed them.

The other successful path is a bit harder to change. Trust, understanding, and knowing that each person in the relationship has your best interest at heart helps a lot. One husband who has been a guest admits that both he and his wife are “conflict adverse.” Despite not knowing who he is, she instinctively trusts that he will care for her.

For whatever reason, my Mom didn’t seem to have this innate trust. She thought I was her best friend and knew me to be the person who took her out on adventures. However, when it came to accepting help, she wasn’t willing to trust me.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to look back and determine where this lack of trust started in our relationship. Unfortunately, I haven’t pinpointed a reason, and I was unable to fix the issue with her.

Where To Start for Success

Knowing what I know now, I can confidently state that the more you learn about being a successful caregiver, the more successful you’ll be. There are many places to learn about caregiving. You can start with my podcast. I talk to current and former caregivers. Talking to these caregivers taught me a lot.

The Alzheimer’s Association has classes, online forums, and articles. After tuning in to my podcast episodes, this is where I’d go next. I strongly suggest that you join one of their support groups. The support and knowledge you’ll get from the others in a support group are invaluable.

The Alzheimer’s Association has classes, online forums, and articles. After tuning in to my podcast episodes, this is where I’d go next. I strongly suggest that you join one of their support groups. The support and knowledge you’ll get from the others in a support group are invaluable.

One last suggestion is to check out the website of AlzAuthors. This website was created explicitly for Alzheimer’s caregivers. There are books and blogs on every facet of the journey with Alzheimer’s.

The more knowledge and support you seek out, the better you’ll be able to support your loved one.

Related Podcast Episode

Living With Alzheimer’s Disease

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Fading Memories was created to support family caregivers in a simple, on-demand form. When I was looking for advice on caring for my Mom, I needed this podcast. Since it didn’t exist, I created what I needed!
Jen – pod host

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