Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another dementia can be an isolating experience. In a recent survey, 74 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers said they and their loved ones have become more isolated from society.

The unpredictable nature of this disease is often the primary reason caregivers find it easier to just stay home. They are afraid that local businesses might be too busy or confusing, or that their loved one might become anxious, disruptive, or even disoriented and lost.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s today and by 2025, 7.1 million people 65 and over will have the disease. People in their 40s and 50s are now being diagnosed with the disease.

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, the following suggestions might help in continuing a more normal lifestyle:

  • Choose a business or restaurant that has quiet places. Loud noises can cause agitation for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Aim to visit a business when you know it will not be as busy or you won’t have to wait in line.
  • Even if employees aren’t formally trained to recognize and deal with those who have dementia, frequent businesses where the staff is known to be polite, honest, patient and congenial.
  • Look for businesses that have simple processes and procedures. If it’s a restaurant, make sure it’s a place where you can offer an individual with dementia simple menu choices.

Those with Alzheimer’s or other dementias might become easily frightened, confused or frustrated, resulting in inappropriate behaviors. Here are some suggestions to help employees alleviate these situations:

  • Approach the person slowly and from the front.
  • Treat the person with the dignity and respect you would want for a loved one or yourself.
  • Make eye contact and speak slowly and calmly with a comforting voice using short simple words.
  • Offer one or two choices. Allow the person enough time to respond.
  • Remain calm and keep a positive attitude.
  • Be patient, flexible and understanding.
  • Do not take things personally; the disease is typically causing the symptoms.
  • Avoid arguing with the person because that can escalate. If the person becomes argumentative, apologize and take the blame yourself, saying, “I’m sorry. I misunderstood. My mistake.” And then try to move on.
  • Redirect the conversation.
  • Avoid embarrassing the person.

To learn more about becoming an Alzheimer’s Friendly Business contact Home Instead Senior Care at 843-842-3372 for free 30-minute training or visit www.AlzheimersFriendlyBusiness.com.

Local non-profit Memory Matters also offers free training to businesses through its Purple Angel project. Businesses who have completed this training are listed at www.memory-matters.org.

Please join us at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s at The Promenade in Old Bluffton on Oct. 3. Registration begins at 10:15 a.m., with opening ceremony at 10:45 a.m. and the walk at 11 a.m.

Rachel Carson, Certified Senior Advisor, is the owner of Home Instead Senior Care serving the Lowcountry since 1997.