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Suggestions for Relating to Loved Ones Living with Alzheimer's Disease

By (BI) Jessica Underwood

MCLEAN, Va.-- The diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease in a family member or loved one can sometimes wreak havoc on these important personal relationships both emotionally and physically.

While their most significant memories are slipping away, so is their ability to communicate their need for additional emotional support. This can create a very lonely experience for all parties involved. Still, the presence of the disease in a loved one does not have to mark an ending point in a relationship.

It can be a challenge connecting with people who, it seems, are no longer themselves. Still, no modern medicine can replace the hope and strength that comes from a loved one. Here are a few suggestions for relating to loved ones living with Alzheimer's disease or dementia:

* Reminisce together -- Engage in simple, non-stressful reminiscing activities such as looking at photo albums, going for a drive in an old neighborhood or watching home movies.

* Join the journey -- When a loved one goes on a mental journey to a different place or time, join the experience. Ask questions and be engaged; it will make the overall experience much more pleasant.

* Keep a calm demeanor -- Resist the urge to overcorrect their stakes or argue back if they become aggressive. Your hostility will only feed the stress and frustration.

* Offer a loving touch -- Don't underestimate the impact of a warm hug or gentle shoulder rub. A loving touch sometimes speaks louder than words.

* Exercise -- Exercise increases blood circulation and boosts levels of oxygen in the brain. It is also a great bonding opportunity while giving your loved one a safe and supervised workout. Exercise can include a walk outside or dancing to a favorite song.

* Be involved -- Fulfill those emotional needs and talk about what's on your mind. Friendships can be a wonderful outlet for releasing your thoughts and concerns. Also, if additional care is being provided by a third party, your involvement will help provide the caregiver a different look into your loved one's life. This will help improve their style of caring, stimulating and joining their journey.

"The loss of the 'sense of self' that victims of the disease feel can be very frightening and some times even leads to depression," explained Carol Edelstein, vice president for Program Development at Sunrise Senior Living.

"But one positive aspect of those living with the disease is that they totally live in the moment. Taking the time to make those moments special and meaningful will make all the difference in their overall demeanor. That is why spending time together is so important."

"Providing more focused and personalized care, either by a loved one or a trained caregiver, helps keep people experiencing memory loss engaged in life, which is critical to improving their quality of life," added Edelstein.

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