My husband’s decline could be traced gradually. When I looked out of the living room window and saw how long the grass had grown, deterioration was spelled everywhere. He had stopped mowing. He helped me clean up and rake the leaves a bit but tired fast. He also spent much less time sorting and working on his beloved stamp collection that he’d started when he was much younger.
My biggest frustration with his Alzheimer’s was my burning desire to coax him back to the way he’d been. He often started something and but soon after, switched to another task mid-way. He did not always finish sentences and our family learned to let that go instead of trying to finish the sentence for him. We tried not to correct his mistakes and ask for clarification. We spoke in clear, warm, caring voices. I think that the tone of my voice had more impact than the message I was trying to communicate. I discovered that lowering the pitch of my voice was more comforting and less threatening. I always spoke slowly and avoided long, complex sentences.
Basically, my husband’s nature did not change and he remained the same kind person he’d always been. I would like to pass on to anyone living with Alzheimer’s some of the things I learned along the way.
There was no point in arguing with him as it got me nowhere. It was preferable to validate his feelings by saying; “I see that you are angry and upset,” which made him feel that he was not alone. Then I changed the subject.
I endeavored to turn negatives into positives and instead of saying; “Don’t go there,” I tried to remember to say; “Let’s go here.” It was important to make eye contact and talk face to face. I used his name whenever I could and approached from the front after discovering that suddenly appearing from the side or the back startled him.
While having a conversation, I tried to keep my head at the same level as his so as not to intimidate him.
Firing questions at someone in his condition is hopeless. Ask one question at a time and refrain from asking; “Do you remember when we were at the mall?” or “Remember when Shelly visited?” Or “Remember when the children were toddlers?” Because most of the time, he did not remember.
I learned to deliver one instruction at a time and told him beforehand what I was planning. For example; ‘It’s time for a shower now. How about getting undressed and call me if you need help?’ which was far better than starting to help him when he had no idea why I was doing so.
It is imperative never to talk about the ill person in his/her presence. A person with Alzheimer’s Disease can sometimes understand what is being said and talking this way about him/her is humiliating.
Physical closeness like holding hands and caressing made him feel good and it was pleasurable for me too.
I felt that it was always important to treat him with dignity and respect and not to talk to him as though he were an infant.