Inside a speech bubble, a woman puts her arm around a man's shoulder in a gesture of comfort.

How You Can Support Family Members on the Alzheimer's Journey

Throughout the 10 years my mom lived with Alzheimer's disease, my dad was her full-time caregiver. Although I helped out as much as I could, I never felt like I was doing enough to help my dad.

I think that is in part because no matter how much I helped or how much of a break my dad got, he was still sad. He was still overwhelmed and stressed out, too. I desperately wanted to do something to help ease his pain and suffering, but it didn't seem like anything I ever did was enough.

Easing the burden of Alzheimer's

I often hear from other caregivers who feel the same way. They want to know how they can better support their caregiver parent, their siblings, or their own children. They want to find a way to ease the burden of this disease on their other family members.

Even full-time caregivers worry about how the disease is going to impact their other family members. They want to spare them of the pain and sadness of seeing how much their loved one with Alzheimer's has declined.

I think it's a beautiful thing that there are so many compassionate people who want to help ease the suffering of others, but I also think it's important for us to remind ourselves that it's not our responsibility to spare others the sadness and grief that Alzheimer's causes.

It is enough of an emotional burden to watch your loved one go through this disease without taking responsibility for the emotional burden of those around you.

Supporting family members through the Alzheimer's journey

It took me a while to realize that there was nothing I could do to ease my dad's sadness because what we were going through was really sad. My mom and dad were high school sweethearts — of course he was going to be sad to watch her decline.

Honestly, it would have felt odd if he wasn't sad. I would have wondered why he wasn't more affected by my mom's Alzheimer's. He was really sad because it was a really sad situation. There was nothing I could do to take that away from him.

The only thing I could do was support him through it. I helped as much as I could. I listened when he wanted to talk about it. I reminded him that he wasn't alone. I sat with him in his pain and I didn't make it about me. That was all I could do for him.

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Learning from this experience

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, everyone around them has their own experience with it. Personally, I wouldn't have wanted anyone to shield me from the pain and sadness of my mom's Alzheimer's because I learned so much from it. It made me a better, stronger person.

You have to let everyone around you have their own experience with this disease so they can learn their own lessons from it. You can support them and love them through it, but you can't take away their pain and sadness. You cannot walk this path for them, but you can walk by their side until the end. And hopefully, you will all become better, stronger people for having gone through it together.

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