Alzheimer’s and my husband


When faced with an awkward situation, most of us tend to look the other way.

This is what happened after my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I knew how ill my husband was, but due to his cheery smile, he managed to cover most of his symptoms for quite some time.

Later, people found it difficult to interact with him just because he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Instead of talking naturally, they somehow talked past him. It’s true that his memory did not work as well as ours but he deserved attention and respect. All that was needed was a hug, a handshake or a few words like, ‘you look good today,’ or ‘I’m glad I found you at home.’

There were people who spoke to him as if he were a child at kindergarten. I know that I would withdraw if someone spoke to me that way. A person suffering from Alzheimer’s is ill, not dumb. I noticed that many health workers tended to use terms of endearment like honey, dearie or sweetheart which sounded rather insincere. Why not call him by his name? People assumed that he was always confused, but he wasn’t.

I heard friends ask my husband; ‘Do you remember me? What’s my name?’ but all that this did was increase his anxiety and was not beneficial. I think it’s better to focus on the positive.

There were people who asked me questions about my husband while he was sitting with us like; ‘Does he have a good appetite?’ or ‘What does he do all day?’ I found this insulting. Even if a patient appears to be in a coma, I don’t think that I would talk about him/her while in the same room or ward. We have no way of knowing what that person absorbs.

Some friends stopped visiting because they thought my husband wouldn’t be aware of the fact that they no longer came by, but he loved people and I had no way of knowing what he remembered. I have a feeling that he always remembered the things I wished he’d forget.

The best advice I can give is:

Treat people the way you would like to be treated in the same situation.

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