Pre-Planning and Information Helps Make Social Gatherings Successful
Family gatherings, where one of its members has Alzheimer's, shows the differences in people's coping skills. Alzheimer's and the many different types of illnesses and conditions where cognition, social skills, behavior and emotions are affected, causes unease and sometimes fear.
Alzheimer's adds a dimension of uncertainty for relatives and friends. Many caregivers say the medical condition of their loved one has isolated them. People often do not know how to react as communication becomes harder and the person they once knew becomes different.
What can caregivers do to reduce stress and make social events successful? I would start with information. Keeping in contact by email, letter, phone with relatives lets people know how the person with Alzheimer's is. It puts more distant friends and relatives at ease if they know what to expect. If you have a facility such as Skype, or some other form of video communication, your more distant relatives can communicate directly. Effectively it means they can see and hear for themselves some of the changes in personality and communication, but of course their understanding of broader behaviors will still be more limited.
Map out the skills he/she has rather than dwell too much on the negatives. So although you will describe the memory problems you can tell them how much you enjoyed a trip out. Include a story about how their forgetfulness affected his/her behavior. It demonstrates how their behavior can be unpredictable but that is not disastrous. It just shows they may need to adapt the way they talk and guide them.
You can tell them that if they act with confidence, smile, talk quietly and show that they are listening to their answers it helps them feel included. Touch can also be a good form of alternative communication. I think if someone is always available at the family gathering to sit by them it helps. If the noise gets too much for them the person can be taken for a quite time in another room or out for a show round in the garden. The person can also act should they need a bathroom trip.
It is important you remind friends and relatives that although he/she may not remember them or may confuse them with someone else that they should not be offended. Emphasize that the person with Alzheimer's appreciates their visit and that it means a lot to you, the primary caregiver.
Caregivers should encourage visitors if they want to keep some sort of social life and if they find it difficult to leave their home. Ask friends and relatives to ring you , if possible, so you can prepare.
More information on improving communication with people who have Alzheimer's