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Memory Care Guide: Educating Your Family on Alzheimer's Disease

“If you are an at-home caregiver with a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia, you already know it is a ‘family affair’,” says Sharon Major, Director of Marketing and Community Relations at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr in Bryn Mawr, PA.

“A diagnosis of progressive memory loss for a loved one has a ripple effect on the entire family. And while the daily lives of primary caregivers are clearly affected the most, other members of the family are also touched by the disease. No one can ignore the obvious changes that occur when a beloved family member is affected by Alzheimer’s.

“As a result, it is important that all family members be informed, educated and engaged in the support process as early as possible, say memory care experts. This applies to close friends and neighbors as well who may interact with the person on a regular basis”

Family Education and Awareness Are Key to Coping with the Changes

Because primary caregivers are the most involved in their loved one’s care, it is important for them to take the initiative and become as educated as possible about the disease and to prepare for the inevitable changes and challenges that lie ahead. Caregivers can then help other family members to understand the effects of memory loss and teach them how to interact with the loved one in a way that is most pleasant and productive for everyone.

As memory care experts advise, the more every family member knows, the easier it will be for them to understand what their loved one is going through. They’ll also know how to help you and your loved one deal with the challenges ahead.

Memory Care Experts’ Tips for Educating the Family

Memory care experts from organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association and the Mayo Clinic advise that it is important to be open and honest about your loved one’s situation. Experience has proven that this is in everyone’s best interests. The Alzheimer’s Association’s article, Helping Friends and Family offers several helpful tips:

  • Let People Know – It is important to inform family and friends about your loved one’s condition. There’s no particular right time or right way to do this. When the timing seems appropriate, be honest with family and friends and use it as an opportunity to educate them about Alzheimer’s.
  • Be Totally Honest – Be completely honest about the disease and its progressive effects. This helps others to know what to expect. Also, let them know if you need help with caregiving activities and be specific as to what assistance you can use, e.g. pick up mom’s prescriptions the first Monday of each month.
  • Teach Ways to Have Effective Communications with Your Loved One – As a rule, speak slowly and always make eye contact with your loved one when speaking to them. You may need to remind them who you are.
  • Don’t Correct Your Loved One or Act Impatient – If your loved one makes mistakes or forgets something, do not correct them and avoid doing anything that might agitate or over stimulate them.
  • Ensure Positive Visits – Schedule visits at times of day when your loved one is at their best, i.e. when they are calm and focused. Be relaxed and quiet in your interactions with them and don’t talk to them as if they were a child. Respect their personal space and don’t get too close.
  • Create Pleasant Interactions – Encourage other family members and friends to do enjoyable things with your loved one. This might include looking through a photo album, listening to music, watching a favorite movie, walking or visiting old friends.
  • Explain Memory Impairment to Children -- Explain to children the changes the disease can cause now and in the future and also be prepared to answer their questions.  It is important to be honest and to encourage them to ask questions and to share their emotions. Children may want to ask questions at different times after they have been informed about their loved one’s condition. Be sure to keep the lines of communication open with them at all times.
  • Be Understanding of Children’s Reactions – Expect each child to react differently to someone who has Alzheimer’s depending upon their level of attachment. Emotions can be wide ranging and include sadness, worry and fear. Encourage children to talk about what they are feeling and let them know it's okay to feel sad, worried or angry. Let them know you feel that way sometimes as well. Also, encourage them to stay involved with their loved one by taking walks, listening to music and other things your loved one finds enjoyable. It is the same person they love who now has a health condition.

Following these expert memory care tips can help other family members to understand the situation and to empathize with your loved one. Memory care therapists say that this will encourage positive interactions that can improve your loved one’s overall mood, sense of well-being and feelings of being a valued part of the family.

Your Dependable Family Resource for Memory Care Information and Support

More than a homelike haven for exceptional memory care services, Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr also serves as an important educational resource for at-home caregivers. We invite you to view our monthly articles and tips on memory care topics. We offer them to make your life as a memory care caregiver easier and to improve the quality of care for your loved one.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our memory care blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comforts of home. Our community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again.

For more information, please call Sharon at (484) 380-5400 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.