This post was written by Donna Brown- an online friend of mine who also happens to be a pastor's wife. Thanks for sharing your heart and words of wisdom with us Donna.
The life of our family was altered with when my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's after suffering 2 strokes. I would like to make some suggestions for those of you who have friends, family or acquaintances who are struggling with the reality of Alzheimer's.
A-Attend. I use "attend" as it would be used by those in the educational world. In other words, pay attention to the individual with Alzheimer's and the family as you can. Take the time to try to follow my dad's conversation and if you are confused, just nod your head and smile. Do nice things for my mother. Give her a call. Invite her over for coffee. If I tear up during a normal conversation, give me a hug. We need your support.
L-Laugh. You don't have to act as if it's the end of the world that my dad is sick. Give us something to laugh about. Tell us a joke. Recommend a funny book. Laugh with us-it helps keep us from crying as we witness the decline of a great mind.
Z-Zip in and zip out. Maybe you can only stay a minute and maybe we only need you to stay a minute, but please come see us. We still enjoy visiting with friends who stop by.
H-Help. Volunteer to help and let me know what you can do. Are you willing to pick up a few groceries? Are you willing to sit with my dad while I get out of the house for an hour? Let me know.
E-Eat. Eat with us. Sometimes mealtimes are very hard for my dad and my mom. Mom is sometimes embarrassed that Dad can't manage his food as well and sometimes makes a mess. Can you overlook that and eat with us? It would be good for my mom to talk to someone else and let me help Dad manage his food.
I-Initiate conversation. My dad can't initiate conversation very often, but if you will talk to him, he will usually respond. Don't talk too softly or too loudly. Talk about concrete things-things you can see. Talk about old times-my dad can probably talk to you about days gone by---he certainly CAN'T talk to you about what he had for lunch 20 minutes ago because he has forgotten that he had lunch.
M-Meditate about what your life will be like if your mental capacity should fail and plan for it. Make a will. Make a living will. Be proactive. Don't leave your family in a legal or financial mess if this happens to you.
E-Excuse. Excuse and ignore my dad's comments that are inappropriate. He would never say these things 4 years ago, but his brain doesn't tell him that certain things are inappropriate in conversation. Believe me, my mother and I are appalled at some of the things he says now, but there is nothing we can do about it. We can chastise him, but he will forget it.
R-Risk. Risk being out of your comfort zone. Spend time with those folks with dementia and/or Alzheimer's. You'll learn a lot. You'll develop true patience.
S-Serve those with disabilities and serve their families. You and your family may face these same needs down the road. Your service will be rewarded in some way and will certainly be noted by our Father in heaven.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.