Maintaining dignity and respect for individuals with Alzheimer’s can be challenging. Individuals may experience memory loss, confusion, and difficulty communicating. This often leads to misunderstandings, frustration, and a sense of loss of control 一 of which it may be hard for them to be understood.

Alzheimer’s causes changes in behavior, such as agitation, aggression, or wandering. These behaviors are difficult for caregivers and others to manage and may inadvertently compromise the individual’s dignity and safety. As the disease progresses, individuals with Alzheimer’s lose the ability to perform basic tasks and become dependent on others for care. This loss of independence can be humiliating and erode their sense of self-worth.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is also physically and emotionally demanding. Caregivers may experience burnout, frustration, and resentment, which unintentionally leads to treating the individual with less dignity and respect, in some cases.

To maintain dignity and respect for individuals with Alzheimer’s, it is important to:

  • Focus on the person, not the disease. Remember that the individual is still a unique and valuable person, despite their cognitive impairment.
  • Communicate with compassion and empathy: Use clear, simple language, be patient, and validate their feelings.
  • Respect their choices and preferences: Allow them to make decisions whenever possible and involve them in their care planning.
  • Maintain their independence: Encourage them to do as much as they can for themselves and assist only when necessary.
  • Protect their privacy: Ensure their personal information is kept confidential and their bodies are treated with respect during caregiving tasks.
  • Create a safe and supportive environment: Minimize stress and confusion by providing a familiar and comfortable environment.
  • Advocate for their rights: Ensure they are treated fairly and with respect in all settings.

Providing care for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s is a challenge. If you’re looking for support or affirmation, consider reading Dignity for Deeply Forgetful People or watching the film Away from Her. Both emphasize the importance of maintaining dignity and respect for individuals with Alzheimer’s, even as their cognitive abilities decline. They also address the emotional complexities faced by caregivers and spouses.

Dignity for Deeply Forgetful People

Dignity for Deeply Forgetful People by David Shenk explores the challenges and complexities of Alzheimer’s disease, focusing on the importance of preserving dignity for those living with the condition. Shenk delves into the emotional, social, and ethical aspects of caregiving, highlighting the importance of understanding and empathy.

The book emphasizes the need to shift our perspective on Alzheimer’s, moving away from viewing it solely as a disease of loss and towards recognizing the enduring personhood of individuals with dementia. Shenk advocates for a more compassionate approach to care that prioritizes the well-being and dignity of those affected.

Dignity for Deeply Forgetful People offers practical suggestions for caregivers, family members, and healthcare professionals on how to create a supportive and respectful environment for individuals with Alzheimer’s. The book encourages readers to see beyond the disease and to connect with the person behind dementia, fostering meaningful interactions and preserving their sense of self-worth.

Away from Her

Away from Her is a film based on Alice Munro’s short story The Bear Came Over the Mountain. It tells the story of Grant and Fiona Anderson, a married couple whose relationship is tested when Fiona begins to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

As Fiona’s memory deteriorates, she voluntarily checks herself into a nursing home. The facility has a policy of no visitors for the first 30 days to help patients adjust, a period during which Fiona forgets Grant almost entirely. When Grant is allowed to visit, he discovers that Fiona has formed a close bond with another patient, Aubrey, a mute man in a wheelchair.

The film explores the complex emotions of love, loss, and acceptance as Grant grapples with Fiona’s fading memory and her growing attachment to Aubrey. He struggles with feelings of jealousy and abandonment while trying to honor Fiona’s wishes and prioritize her happiness. Ultimately, he makes a selfless decision to support her new relationship, recognizing that her well-being is more important than his own desires.

Away from Her is a poignant and moving exploration of the challenges faced by couples dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. It delves into the complexities of long-term relationships, the nature of memory and identity, and the sacrifices we make for those we love.

When you’re a caregiver, you face many challenges. I am an Aging Life Care Manager® who works with clients and families to navigate challenges. I would be happy to answer your questions.