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Ways to Emotionally Support Your Partner with Alzheimer’s

caregiver comforting a senior

When one partner has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, navigating the road ahead can be difficult and devastating to relationships. Nothing can prepare you for the changes ahead, but knowing what to expect can help you understand the best ways to support your loved one. It’s important to recognize your and your partner’s feelings as you go through this journey with dementia together. 

Seeing someone you love struggle with memory loss can take a toll on your relationship, and you may feel powerless to do anything about it. However, finding ways to support your partner can help you continue to have a meaningful relationship even as Alzheimer’s progresses. 

Offering Emotional Support in Each Stage of Dementia

Early Stage Dementia

In this stage, your partner may notice they’re having memory lapses and difficulty with thinking and reasoning skills. They may forget what they had for lunch or struggle to recall the names of familiar people or things. Simple tasks such as paying bills and doing laundry may become more difficult. As dementia affects communication skills, your partner may withdraw from social situations and have difficulty following conversations.

Ways to provide emotional support during this stage:

  • Remind your partner that a dementia diagnosis doesn’t mean life is over. There’s much left to experience in life; it just may be different than the future you had in mind.
  • Ask your partner for input and feedback on the types of social activities they feel most comfortable doing so you can focus on positive ways to spend time together. 
  • Although your partner may be able to live independently at this stage, it’s important to start thinking about how to support them as their needs increase. Include your partner in conversations about long-term planning early on so they have a chance to share their preferences and be part of the decision-making process.
  • Focus on the positive. Avoid dwelling on thoughts of how things used to be or experiences you won’t have together in the future. Instead, focus on enjoying the present moment with your partner and the experiences you can share today.

Moderate Stage Dementia

Problems with memory, thinking and judgment worsen at this stage. A person with moderate dementia may be confused about what day it is and have trouble recalling basic information about themselves. Your loved one may need help with getting dressed, making meals or handling other activities of daily living. As dementia progresses, they may behave in unexpected ways and have an increased tendency to wander and become lost. Keeping your loved one safe becomes the top priority, and sometimes the changes needed for safety reasons can be upsetting or confusing for someone with dementia.

Ways to provide emotional support during this stage:

  • Encourage your partner to share how they’re feeling and provide support by listening. At this stage, they may be experiencing moodiness, anger, paranoia and confusion.
  • Acknowledge your partner’s worries rather than dismissing or minimizing their concerns.
  • Reassure and help your partner make sense of the world around them by developing some predictable daily routines.
  • Be sensitive to your partner’s feelings of frustration about a loss of equity in the relationship. They may feel they’re losing control when decisions are made for them.
  • Allow yourself to experience grief, loss and sadness as dementia progresses and your relationship changes. 
  • Join a dementia support group to connect with others going through similar experiences.

Severe Stage Dementia

Late-stage dementia brings heartbreaking changes for people with dementia and their loved ones. Your partner may lose the ability to communicate, walk, smile, swallow or participate in personal care activities. They may be unable to recognize people, places and objects. You may be unsure how to give emotional support when the dynamics of relationships have changed so much. Constant care will be needed in this stage; ensuring your partner has round-the-clock support in a Memory Care setting provides much-needed peace of mind.

Ways to provide emotional support during this stage:

  • Communicating with their care team can help ensure your loved one is getting the support they need. 
  • Even if your loved one doesn’t initiate conversations at this late stage, they can still benefit from social interaction and engaging activities, such as listening to music.
  • Smiling and laughing together is a wonderful way to stay connected when communication is becoming more difficult.
  • Be present with your partner. Just being there to hold their hand can provide comfort for both of you.

Supportive Care for Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s

Choosing a compassionate and supportive Memory Care community for your partner is one of the best ways you can show your love and support. We encourage you to learn more about The Vine, our transitional Memory Care program for senior couples at Monticello West. This innovative program makes it possible for a spouse to receive the appropriate level of memory care support and then reunite at the couple’s apartment located within our Assisted Living or Independent Living neighborhood. Contact us to schedule a tour or to learn more about our all-inclusive Memory Care in Dallas, TX.