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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.

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."

Understand it can happen anywhere. "Whether the person with Alzheimer's is at home or at a facility, their ability to get attached to someone new other than their spouse is still there," says Schempp. "It's not exclusive to the nursing home; it's random depending on how their brains are working."

It's not just wives and husbands, either. "Very often, a person with Alzheimer's doesn't know who their child is anymore and replaces them with a home aide or a friend," says Schempp. "In their brain, by creating an identity with this new person, they are reconfiguring the family dynamic that was comfortable or nurturing to them."

See the world through their eyes. "Every day they struggle with verbal communication, memory loss, and confusion," says Powers. "When you start to have these familiar faces around you in a nursing home, of course you are going to find friends. It makes sense. It doesn't mean they are replacing their spouse or the family they've loved their whole loves, they're just adjusting any way they can."

Reviewed on February 14, 2008

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