Watching someone endure the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease is difficult. It is called “the long goodbye,” because it lingers and lingers, and we must watch as our loved ones slip deeper away. Even though they are physically in front of us, they are gone. They are not the same people we knew.
There are several ways to help someone with Alzheimer’s that will make life a little easier for both of you.
First, don’t argue with them. If they insist the sky is pink, you should agree and remark that it is a lovely shade of pink at that.
Second, try to help them fill in the gaps. If they forget the way, don’t scold them. Gently remind them it is “this way.” And if they cannot think of a word they are trying to say, gently help them with it. Don’t fight them verbally. Always be kind and soft-spoken. They are already going through enough turmoil in their minds.
Third, my dad enjoyed it when I sang songs to him. These were songs from his past and he always smiled and laughed while I sang them. Bringing up stories from the past that he remembered made him feel less stress.
Fourth, give them permission to die. People often hang on thinking they are needed. Their subconscious might be working against their conscious mind. They might be ready to go, yet feel the need to stay for their loved ones. Giving them permission to go is the best gift you can give anyone.
Every time I left my dad I would tell him it was OK for him to go away. Most of the time his mind didn’t comprehend what I was trying to tell him. Then, one day I was lying with him in his bed, we were singing “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra,” and he had some moments of clarity. I used that opportunity to tell him again it was time for him to go. He looked at me and asked if it was his time. I said it was. He said he would miss me. I assured him I would be fine and everyone would be all right. He didn’t have to worry about anyone. We would all be OK. For some reason, that day I got through to his subconscious. By the next morning he had passed away.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s takes a lot of patience. Remember to keep you cool, don’t argue with them, and by all means, make them feel safe and loved. And, give them permission to let go. Give them permission to die. That is the best thing I ever did for my dad. While I miss him greatly, I know he wasn’t the dad I had known all my life. The last two years he was a different person. For someone who had been very active while I was growing up, he turned into a shell of a man. It was indeed, a long goodbye.