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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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The Emotional Toll of Alzheimer's

When Alzheimer's patients build new bonds in a nursing home, it can have a serious impact on a family.

How Alzheimer's Affects Families continued...

Still, there's a silver lining, and that is in knowing that your loved one has found some comfort, even if it's with another person.

"As a spouse, you have to remember that it's not that your husband or wife is rejecting you, or that they don't care about you anymore, but they lack the ability to recognize these memories or their feelings," says Powers. "It's the disease; it's not personal."

For the children of Alzheimer's patients, struggling to come to grips with not only their parent's disease, but also their parent's new companion in the nursing home, can be just as devastating.

"Sometimes adult children can have a harder time with it than the spouse," says Schempp. "It's difficult to deal with feeling like your mom or dad has been replaced."

As a spouse or a child, it's important to come to grips with the disease and how it affects a person's brain and body.

"Alzheimer's patients need social connections and bonds just like everyone else," says Reed. "They can still form new connections, but the behavioral and emotional changes they are experiencing mean they respond and react to their new -- and old -- connections in different ways."

Coping With the Emotional Toll of Alzheimer's

Coping with the loss of a loved one's presence -- both physical and mental -- when she's placed in a nursing home is hard. Even more difficult is dealing with a new companion she may have found. Experts offer tips for dealing with Alzheimer's disease, a loved one's newfound bond in a nursing home, and its impact on your family's life:

Remember, it's a disease. "Deal with it as part of a disease process -- it's not a conscious decision to abandon you," says Powers. "It's important to think about the person not being able to make choices at that level."

See the silver lining. "Think about how your spouse is finding comfort in their new companion, and even if it doesn't make you feel good, remember that it is probably a nice feeling for them," says Schempp.

Find support. "The Alzheimer's Association encourages people to reach out for help," says Reed. "We offer community support programs and online resources for families who have been affected by Alzheimer's disease."

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