Focusing On What Your Loved One Can Still Do
Last updated: February 2023
If you were to sit down and write a list of all the things your loved one with Alzheimer's can no longer do, I bet you would have no problem writing a list a mile long. But what if I asked you to write a list of all the things your loved one is still capable of doing?
How many things do you think you could come up with?
Witnessing a loved ones decline
When your loved one has Alzheimer's disease, you watch them continue to decline and lose more abilities every day. It can be so easy to only focus on all of the things they can no longer do, but it is much more helpful to focus on all of the things they can still do. It helps you have a more positive approach to their care and it makes your loved one feel more confident and fulfilled.
When I was helping care for my mom, we always did the laundry together. Shortly after her diagnosis, we realized that she no longer knew how to use the washing machine herself. It was much easier for me to just do the laundry from start to finish without my mom's help, but I wanted to find ways to include her and make her feel useful.
Feeling useful with Alzheimer's
My mom was always a stay-at-home mom who prided herself on keeping a clean house and I knew doing the laundry had once been important to her.
I decided not to focus on the fact that she could no longer operate the washing machine and see how she could be useful in other parts of the process.
At first, I would start the machine and then let my mom separate the clothes and put them in. Then, I would have her transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer, which I would start myself.
Generativity leads to fulfillment
As time went on and her Alzheimer's progressed, I realized that she was no longer able to help sort the clothes and put them in the wash, but she was still able to help me fold the clothes when they were all done. I don't even know how many times we stood at her bed folding the laundry and joking about how much fun it was.
All jokes aside, I knew it made my mom feel good about herself to be able to help out. She liked feeling useful and keeping busy made her feel more fulfilled throughout the day. I could always tell a difference in her mood when she spent the day helping me around the house versus just sitting in front of the television all day. I always thanked her for helping me too, which made her feel like she was really contributing.
Focusing on all of the things they can do
Eventually, my mom was not able to help with the laundry at all, but I found other things she could still do. Even if it was just giving her a wipe to clean off the tray table on her wheelchair, it was enough to make her feel useful.
It's so easy to focus on all of the things your loved one can no longer do, but imagine what you might find if you focus on all of the things they can do. And imagine how much better it will make your loved one feel.
Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
Do you think businesses can better accommodate individuals living with Alzheimer's and their caregivers?