Alzheimer’s and Dementia: How Can You Help Your Family Members?
by Alpita Shah – Miami, FL

missing puzzle piece

Dementia is caused by forgetting where items are kept, or unable to perform basic problem solving. Affected persons cannot communicate words easily, and planning and organizing is not easy.

Dementia can lead to Alzheimer’s which is known to be called Senile Dementia. The cause of Alzheimer’s is still unknown. However, a majority of cases are due to the degeneration of brain cells and lifestyle changes. According to NIH early onset can occur as early as mid 30s and late onset will be beyond mid-60s.

How can you help as a family member?

With any disease or condition, a family member goes through the most. Apart from educating yourself, engage with the person who has dementia like a child who is learning everything from scratch. One has to be very patient on a day-to basis because every day can be different. The mantra of “take each day as it comes” needs to be really followed.

Often, we receive many suggestions from relatives and friends. Instead of suggestions, be there for the affected by giving time. Providing advice or suggestions only makes things worse because the immediate family member is trying their best and doing everything in their capacity.

Who to see?

Often there is confusion of who the patient should consult for Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Start with a neurologist who specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia after your primary care doctor. After that when you see a severe progression of the disease, keep additional help in the house. There are house maids/nurses available for day and night. Introduce the affected family member to the maid slowly as it is a change for them. Check whether the caregiver is compassionate and warm and can keep their cool.

How to take of yourself (the family member) in these situations?

Create a plan with your doctor and do what is best for you and your family. Taking care of the affected member can be very draining. Many people go through a tough phase taking care of the loved one during dementia and Alzheimer’s and should see a counselor or therapist if needed. Family members may go through anxiety or depression and are not aware of this.

When to get help as a caregiver?

Often accepting the situation is not enough. We have our daily schedule, our chores, office work, kids, etc., and when a family member is sick, it is hard to juggle between tasks. The easiest way to do this is to

1) Create a plan with the neurologist/ doctor of experience

2) Obtain a maid/ nurse full time for the affected member

3)  Block times in the day to spend time with the affected

4)  Work with your feelings through art, music and painting

5)  Strengthen the bond  with the affected person through reading, solving puzzles

It doesn’t hurt to be in touch with a neutral therapist or counselor and discuss methods of application.

For more information, please feel free to contact

Alpita Shah, Mental Health Counselor, MBA (Univ. of W. FL), Harvard Innovation and Entrepreneurship.  617-909-4766


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