One day, dementia patients can be calm and well-functioning -- the next day they can be confused, agitated, and withdrawn. Friends and family can stop calling because of the uncertainty, but they don’t have to.
White, black, rich, or poor, Alzheimer’s doesn’t discriminate. About 44 million people across the world have dementia.
“There’s not a family in this country that’s not touched by this disease,” said Marc Agronin, MD, senior vice president for Behavioral Health at Miami Jewish Health.
If you know someone with the disease, you know it affects more than memory.
Agronin says, “We see changes in mood; people get very reactive to situations, distressful situations. They get very anxious or sometimes depressed.”
A recent study found that 38% of those with dementia felt avoided, ignored, and ostracized.
So how can you be there for a friend or family member with dementia?
First – educate yourself on their disease and stage. Invite them to do with things you enjoy together, but avoid loud, crowed places.
Look them in the eye when speaking to them, and don’t be afraid to offer hugs and gentle touches.
Don’t correct them if they say something inaccurate. This leads to feelings of embarrassment and frustration. And don’t ask questions like, “what did you do earlier today?” That challenges short term memory. Stick to questions like “how are you feeling today?”
A study done at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago found that lonely individuals may be twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those who are not lonely.