A new study on Alzheimer’s disease has taken a look at how the spouses of those affected by the disease cope when it comes to caregiving for their loved one. It only stands to reason that when a husband or a wife is cognitively impaired such as what occurs with Alzheimer’s, that there would be severe strains upon the relationship.
When someone suffers from Alzheimer’s, certain problems become apparent. Speech problems are one of the more noticeable issues as people have a harder time voicing what their thoughts are. They might have trouble finding the right words to use, or they might repeat the same thing over and over again. Movements become more deliberate as even something as simple as walking across the room takes a great deal of concentration. These issues create problems for couples as even simple activities together become impossible, and they can cause resentment and bitterness after years of happiness and love together. It’s unfortunate, but it happens often when one part of the couple is impacted by Alzheimer’s.
This new study, rather than looking at and identifying communication issues and other points of contention, looked to those couples that are able to sustain their communication for longer periods of time and identified methods that worked for them. Ten main patterns of communication were identified that showed signs of success. Some of these included engaging with compassion, going over the “news” of the day, sharing memories, singing familiar songs, and storytelling. It’s important to note here that the average marriage of these couples was 47 years, so there’s little doubt that the couples that were observed had a deep regard and love for each other. This is, of course, an important aspect of marriage,but it also carries over into other relationships, too. The bond between an Alzheimer’s patient and his or her caregiver will also be a positive one when these methods are used.
Alzheimer’s is a terminal illness as there’s no cure for it, but that doesn’t mean that there is no hope left in the relationships that this person has. It is a stage of life for some, and the love of a spouse doesn’t just stop at this point. It can be frustrating, but having the right outlook and the right skills will keep that relationship healthy, even in such a difficult period of time. Caregiving spouses, usually women, took most of the responsibility when it came to communicating, but that doesn’t mean that both partners did not benefit from it. Just because someone has difficulty speaking and voicing their thoughts does not mean that they are not thinking. Showing love toward an elderly loved one is important, even if they can’t show it back.
The hope is that the methods that did work will help others with communication, too, such as caregivers and other family members. If an in-home caregiver is able to communicate better with the person they are assisting, the level of care that they are providing will only improve.