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15 Things Only Loved Ones Of Alzheimer’s Patients Would Understand

15 Things Only Loved Ones Of Alzheimer’s Patients Would Understand

Alzheimer’s is a physical ailment that damages the brain cells, leading to dementia. The decaying of brain cells causes severe memory loss, as well as reduced thinking skills and emotional capacity. The disease was first discovered by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist and neuropathologist, in 1906. Dr. Alzheimer noticed changes in the brain cells of a woman who died out of a peculiar mental illness. She suffered from memory loss, speech decay, and erratic behaviour. Upon her death, Dr. Alzheimer investigated her brain and discovered many abnormal clumps (they are now known as amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fiber (now known as neurofibrillary tangles). Therefore, it was concluded that plaques and tangles (the result of protein buildup in the brain) are the main two reasons for Alzheimer’s disease. Loss of connections among nerve cells in the brain is another contributing factor.

Alzheimer’s disease usually begins around the age of 65. This estimation varies, naturally. But experts say that 5 million Americans suffer from this disease by the time they are 65 or older. Of course, there are treatments for this illness. As these treatments have become more advanced over time, doctors have been injecting the missing chemicals into the brains, helping them to receive some signals. Alzheimer’s starts gradually, eventually interfering with daily life. Patients end up totally dependent on another person, unable to do even the simplest of work.

It is the patients’ loved ones who most understand the difficulties that Alzheimer’s patients face. This article is dedicated to those beautiful souls who undertake the full time job of taking care of these patients with utmost love. Here are 15 things only these loved ones would understand:

1. You know that the person is more than a disease.

Your loved one can be your father, or mother, or your partner. Regardless of the relationship you have to that person, you always know that the person means the world to you. This is the person, who at one time loved you and took care of you just like you are doing now. This person is who you have known all your life, even though they will never function like they used to.

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2. You use every process of communication to reach your loved one.

Your loved one has memory loss, no way to express emotions, or perhaps even worse, your loved one fails to recognize you. It doesn’t mean you stop taking care of him or her. You try your best to communicate with them through different mediums of connection. It can be music, reading books, watching television shows, or talking about daily occurrences. Even a simple touch on the arm can give them the message that they are loved.

3. You cannot argue with your loved one.

With the loss of behavioral abilities, a patient is left with little reasoning ability. They may react aggressively at times. You know there is no point in arguing with your loved one. Rather, arguments would lead to more upsetting situations and would frustrate both parties. It is better just to agree with the things they say.

4. You know your person is not changing, but the disease is.

It is extremely hard to see the gradual change the person is going through right in front of your eyes. The struggles in language, the lack of communication, the changes in mood, the shift in personality, and all other negative factors come from the disease. It is not the patient’s fault. Your loved one is the same person, even though he or she cannot control the situation anymore.

5. You have to be educated about this disease.

I have tried my best to summarize the term Alzheimer’s. But it is more than that. Researchers have been studying this disease for years. Here is a website where you can go and study it more in detail. Becoming more educated about the disease will help you to better understand the person you are taking care of.

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6. You must give them independence when possible.

If your loved one is in a more mild stage, you should give them some independence to do their own work. They should at least try to do some activities in order to stay active. In these ways, your loved ones can stimulate their brains to carry messages as much as possible. Of course, they will eventually stop being able to accomplish such tasks once they reach the moderate to severe stages. Until then, encourage them to do things like count money, keep a diary, or talk about things they are fond of or remember well.

7. You should develop set routines and schedules.

As the illness develops further, it becomes very hard for you and your loved one to keep track of daily routines. Just like nursing a baby, you should have a set rhythm with them. Remember, this person is like a child to you. Keeping a daily routine and schedule will make life much easier. This can help to eliminate confusion and frustration for your loved one.

8. You have to continue with good nutrition.

Your loved ones need a proper, balanced diet. Studies have shown that a lack of healthy food can contribute to worsening Alzheimer’s. It is recommended that a patient cut down on refined sugar and increase intake of fruits and vegetables to help better manage the disease.

9. You should plan time for physical exercise.

Did you know that physical exercise is extremely beneficial for your loved one? Their bodies need to stay healthy just like yours does. Regardless of the stage they are in (it is better if they start from an early stage, since the habits will build as time progresses), you can accompany them on daily walks, gardening, or even dancing!

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10. You should maintain the current list of medications.

You should take your loved one to regular check-ups. The doctors will fix the medications according to the stage that they are in. It is very important to maintain the list of current medicines. You should take extra caution to see to it that they don’t miss a single dose.

11. You cannot forget that your loved one has emotions too.

Yes, they may forget you, they may get angry at you, or they may ignore you for days, but they do have emotions. Your actions and words can have a great impact on them. One of my uncles suffers from Alzheimer’s. He cannot remember anyone, not even his children! But sometimes, he would smile at them, or laugh with them. Check out this article and see for yourself why emotions matter!

12. You have to be realistic in your expectations.

Whether it is your expectations for yourself or for your loved ones, you have to be realistic. This is very significant because setting practical goals will make you expect the unexpected. In this way, you won’t feel disappointed as you see your loved one struggle with this disease.

13. You should have fun with your loved one!

Just because your loved one is suffering from a horrible disease doesn’t mean that they cannot have fun. Plan a trip to the zoo, or to the nearest park, and take your family members with you as well. Take plenty of photos, and bear in mind that even though your loved one may not show emotions, they still certainly enjoyed your company!

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14. You should ALWAYS remember that Alzheimer’s detection is NOT a death sentence!

It is not the end of the world. No, a patient of Alzheimer’s can live for twenty or more years with the disease. Utilize whatever time you have at hand and make the most out of it. Don’t leave a hollow space that will leave you with regrets.

15. You must love your loved ones as they are now.

You should not try to change them, because they will never go back to their old selves. You should embrace them as they are, in their current situations, with their current behaviours, their frequent mood swings, and everything that is related to them. In other words, love them as they are right now!

You should not perceive your loved ones as burdens, because they are not! There will be total life changing experiences for you as you struggle to cope with your new role. You will get upset and emotionally challenged at times, but always remember that this is a person who has loved you very much. Respect them, love them, and live with them.

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Sumaiya Kabir

Sumaiya is a passionate writer who shares thoughts and ideas to help people improve themselves.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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