A smiling woman accepts a bag of food from a man.

Ways to Show up for Those Living With Alzheimer's

Last updated: January 2023

In my junior year of college, about a half dozen of my fabulous female relatives decided that we were going to have a tea party at Gram's house. It required my sister and me to come in for the weekend, dressing tastefully and, oh yeah, floppy hats. The hat was a requirement — I checked.

Our tea party was filled with lots of laughs and at more than just Poppop in said floppy hats. Facilitating these moments of happiness took a bit more effort as my Poppop's memory deteriorated. I developed some best practices, if you will, for ensuring a good quality time for everyone involved! And here I share them with you.

Call ahead

Always call ahead. The first purpose this served was to see if they needed anything! My Gram was an awesome housewife and would want to have milk, tea, and cookies, around the house on my visit. But, as a full-time caregiver to my Poppop, she might not always have the opportunity or the means to get those things. And I could easily stop at Wawa to get whatever they might need or some milk and cookies.

It was also a good means of screening the mood. If Poppop was having a particularly bad day, I knew to prepare myself and grab some ice cream, as it was the most surefire way to bring him out of a mood, on my way.

Have an activity

Perhaps I'd bring a puzzle. Other times, I'd be craving a specific meal, say McDonald's or something I knew they liked, and I'd bring it over to them.

Another great option is to bring my sisters or call a cousin, aunt, or another family member to meet me at Gram and Poppop's. This could sometimes bring around someone who would not otherwise have visited on their own, so it was helpful in that way. It also could bring around enough people for a friendly game of Yahtzee or Rumi, both of which we enjoyed as a family. (Some of us are cheaters.)

Poppop, at those stages, was always happy to be included or adjacent to the laughter and gossip of his family members.

Remembering my Gram's needs

As their grandchild, I was constantly worried about what Pop would need, and thus would bring blankets and fidget spinners, and grippy socks to solve problems I heard they were having as he progressed. I didn't always take the time to think about my awesome Gram, who wasn't being constantly worried over. Remembering that she needed love through this time was another way to support the two of them.

As an example, whenever I needed to go to the store, I'd ask my Gram if she wanted to go with me. This gave her some options: She could tell me they needed something and have me deliver it; she could ask me to pick her up, and we'd go one-on-one; she could organize a time for all 3 of us to go together. More often than not, she wanted to come out with me and find someone to hang out with my Poppop for an hour or so. She didn't drive much on her own, but offering to hang out with Poppop while she was able to take time by herself would have been a good option if she had been more mobile.

Show up

If you're struggling to find an idea on how to interact well with your loved ones, try just asking them how you can show up for them! They may be able to articulate it easily. If not, or if you're otherwise struggling, just remember: to call ahead, plan for an activity to engage in a fun way, and remember to show love to both of your people.

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