Alzheimer's disease, one of the forms of dementia, is a frightening and frustrating condition, both for the patient and for the family member providing care to them. Many Alzheimer's caregivers, particularly those dealing with the later stages of the disease, may begin to suffer burnout and exhaustion. Adding to that burden by saying the wrong thing is always a bad idea, so here are three things you should never say to a person providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer's.
1. Why Don't You Put Your Loved One in a Nursing Home?
This type of question may not seem insensitive on the surface, but the truth is that it's probably going to upset the caregiver. If nursing home care was desired -- or even possible -- the Alzheimer's patient would already be there. There are a number of reasons that the patient may not be in a nursing home.
Finances may be the issue, or maybe the patient views nursing homes as the worst places on earth. Sometimes the caregiver may simply feel that it's easier to keep their loved one at home rather than depend upon a nursing home.
Sometimes, it's a matter of "not yet." Many Alzheimer's caregivers realize that there may come a point when they just can't provide the care needed anymore, but they don't feel that point has arrived yet. When specialized palliative care is needed, a nursing home may be the best place for the patient to receive that care. However, if the patient is still in the home, the caregiver doesn't feel that it's quite time for a nursing home or a palliative care team.
There is always a reason, maybe even several reasons, and asking the caregiver to explain them won't help. The bottom line is that a nursing home has probably already been considered and rejected. No matter what the reason, this is a question that doesn't need to be asked.
2. Why Don't You Ever Get Out of the House?
This is an insensitive question that an Alzheimer's caregiver may be pretty upset about. The nature of the disease is such that the patient simply can't be left alone, especially as the disease progresses. An Alzheimer's patient could walk outside and get lost in minutes, for example. This means no free time for the caregiver.
A caregiver may struggle to find time to take a quick shower, let alone find time to leave the house and enjoy lunch and a movie. If they were able to get out of the house, they probably would. Even if a caregiver has occasional help, palliative Alzheimer's caregiving can be so exhausting and depressing that they may not feel like going anywhere or doing anything when they do finally have free time.
3. Why Are You Sacrificing Your Life For Your Loved One?
This is a real hot-button topic for many caregivers, and is always best avoided. The caregiver may not view caring for their loved one as a sacrifice, but rather as an obligation or even as a privilege. Or, maybe the caregiver does feel that they're sacrificing their life, but they don't want to be reminded of that fact.
The person who provides Alzheimer's care for their loved one is a unique person. It is all but impossible for others to understand what they truly deal with every day, so this means that asking the types of questions above just isn't a good idea. The best possible question to ask a person in this position is "Do you need an ear? I'm here to listen if you need me." Support, especially silent and non-judgmental support, will be truly appreciated.
Ask a company that specializes in these kind of cases, like Corner Home Medical or a similar location, for more tips and ideas.