Alzheimer’s and other dementias can creep into a family’s life until loved ones find themselves overwhelmed and unprepared for the severity of the disease. That’s why having a care plan is so crucial. The guest post from Mile High Estate Planning offers key areas that need to be addressed.
It can be difficult to face conversations with your loved ones after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, interaction with others is important for helping them retain important social and cognitive skills. And, there are some conversations that will help you care for elders facing a dementia diagnosis.
To get you started, we have put together a few questions that can help get important conversations started. We have also included some tips for effectively communicating with people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Planning for the Future
No matter how bleak that future may look, you still must plan for it. Consulting an attorney who specializes in Elder Law can help you decide what questions are most relevant to your family’s situation. Here are some general guidelines.
Have they completed all of the important and necessary legal documents? Talk to your loved ones about updating and finalizing wills, estates, and trusts.
Make sure that their finances are in order. This might be a good time to find out who should make financial decisions once the elder is no longer able to do it themselves. Talk to a financial planner about the best way to ensure your loved one’s wishes for their accounts are honored.
Ask what type and level of care the person wants to have as their disease progresses. Do they want to go into a nursing facility or stay at home? Is there anything that would signal whether treatments should continue or end?
Is there someone they would like to make decisions on their behalf if or when they are unable to? Be open to the idea that this person may not be you, and don’t belittle or second guess their decision.
Remembering A Life Well Lived
Now is the time to start a conversation about your loved one’s life. Ask questions to stimulate memories of special events, accomplishments, favorite places, anything they remember as important or special.
Fortunately, your conversations don’t have to focus only on the end of their life. The beginning and middle are important parts too, and should be remembered, discussed, and cherished as long as possible.
If your loved one keeps bringing up a particular hobby or interest from their past, make sure that is part of their future too. Keeping plants in the room can satisfy a love of gardening and a birdfeeder outside their window can attract wildlife for an animal or nature lover.
Keeping Lines of Communication Open
Unfortunately, dementia can make even basic communication difficult as it progresses. Your loved one may find it hard to come up with the right words or names for objects and people. Their logic may seem off, and conversations can start to flow in an unpredictable manner. Some people may revert to a native language from their younger days.
These are all normal effects of dementia and are nothing to be ashamed of. Since it is so important to keep people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease engaged, do not let these challenges dissuade you. Isolation can quickly lead to depression. Instead, follow these tips for successful communication.
Don’t assume you know what the person is capable of. Everyone will be affected by dementia in a different way. Instead, ask them what style or methods of communication are most comfortable for them. Maybe they prefer talking in person to phone calls.
Dementia slows response time, so don’t rush or force a conversation. Give the other person plenty of time to think about what you said and come up with a response on their own. This gives them the opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas without interference.
As dementia progresses, your loved one will have more trouble coming up with words. Try asking simple questions that can be answered with a yes or no response. Visual cues or written notes can be very helpful in getting ideas across.
Since they will likely have trouble concentrating, try to eliminate background noise. Also, don’t overwhelm them; ask one question at a time so they can focus on what you are saying.
Unfortunately, as the disease progresses communication will become more and more difficult. By the later stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it may be reduced to sounds or movements. Consider the feelings behind those gestures.
Focusing on What’s Important
Communication is a tool. Use it to understand what is important to your loved one as they face their diagnosis and adjust to living with the disease. Remember that there is no shame in having dementia and to always treat your loved ones with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Blake Harris is the Managing Attorney at Mile High Estate Planning where he assists clients with Wills and Trusts, Asset Protection, and Probate. Blake has extensive knowledge and experience helping families plan for and manage the transfer of their assets.