According to the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States today, with more than 5 million Americans currently living with the disease. Since 2000, deaths by heart disease have decreased by 14 percent while deaths from Alzheimer's have increased by 89 percent. The disease, which causes memory loss and dementia, kills more people than breast and prostate cancer combined.
Holiday gatherings are just around the corner, and although many love spending time with Grandparents and parents, Thanksgiving and Christmas can be overwhelming and confusing with the large crowds and new places outside of their typical routine.
The author of "I Care — A Handbook for Care Partners of People with Dementia," offers some tips for helping an elderly family member get through these holiday events with minimal stress.
Try not to get frustrated. Older adults may not remember everything, but they are aware if you are frustrated with the conversation. Be patient. Dedicate someone to help seniors during the gathering. A son or daughter may be able to fill in the gaps, assist with details such as where the bathroom is or where to sit at the dinner table or answer other questions as they arise.
Try to keep grandma or grandpa busy with a task in the kitchen or a walk around the yard or home while dinner is getting ready. Give them a purpose, so they feel useful and stay engaged.
Use pictures to stimulate memories, but don't force them to recollect something they simply don't remember.
And don't forget safety first. Make sure someone drives your elderly relative to the event and keep a watchful eye out for potential dangers to someone who can't remember things clearly.
Most of all, continue to love, spend time with and have conversations with those suffering from Alzheimer's. You may repeat yourself often. You may feel hurt if they forget your name. But you'll never regret the precious moments spent with your loved one.